Movie review: Deadpool
Ryan Reynolds’s physical skills and comic timing prove unbeatable as he takes on the role of a nihilist antihero in Deadpool, a self-conscious wink to Spandex form that would have been unwatchable without him
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand, Ed Skrein, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggams
Directed by: Tim Miller
Running time: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: Restricted
By Katherine Monk
Bloated, coated in logos and incapable of committing a single act of originality, the superhero genre has been lying in a vegetative state, existing on corporate life support for more than a decade. Every movie seems to follow the same formula. Every character carries the same amount of conflict. And with every seasonal zap of the studio paddles, some poor SOB in Spandex is forced to conquer a new A-list villain.
Seduced by the ever-ramped up spectacle, we’re all so used to the routine, we aren’t all that conscious of how dull it’s becoming. So thank the inky scribblers who put pen to paper to create Deadpool, a lesser-known superhero with loose connections to The X-Men and a very bad attitude. He may be dead, but he breathes new life into the rotting, caped corpse of the genre.
Though seen in a brief cameo in Wolverine, Deadpool gives him the starring role, and there’s no turning back. From the moment this movie kicks off with an extended super-slow-motion action sequence of a car crash, it’s got its tongue slammed into the side of its cheek. The credits wrap around the carnage, telling us the film was directed by a “douchebag” and produced by “total tools,” while some villain gets a super-wedgie.
It’s a cheeky sendup of the mega-male egos that tend to inhabit this brand of filmmaking, but announcing your self-conscious desire to be cool doesn’t necessarily make you cool. It usually makes you look desperate. And there are times in Deadpool where the constant winks and nods to superhero cliché and broken fourth walls feel as gratuitous as a random shot of double-D cleavage, yet thanks to the presence of Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool delivers twin barrels of giddy entertainment.
This is his movie. This is the character he was born to play: a wisecracking mutant who really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about noble goals or Christian morality, the fundamental measures of heroism in a comic book universe.
First appearing in 1991 as a Marvel villain, Deadpool represented a generational shift and a certain amount of cultural ennui with the earnest, square-jawed hero who marched in at the last minute with a trite speech about freedom and an arsenal of unnatural ability.
Deadpool is not a team player. He doesn’t even have his own special vehicle. This guy takes cabs to the crime scene and lives with a blind old black woman named Al (Leslie Uggams).
It’s his very ordinariness that makes him appealing, because in his cheeky resentment of high-minded X-Men is a very recognizable impulse to mock, satirize and skewer power. He’s the class clown of caped crusaders, and Reynolds finds just the right balance between smarmy wise-cracker and unrepentant truth-speaker.
What makes the performance even more impressive is that he does most of this behind a mask.
Using his athletic body and his lithe wit in tandem, Reynolds asserts a kinetic, screwball presence in every single frame.
It’s absolutely spellbinding. All you want to do is watch the guy in the red suit as he gleefully undoes every superhero convention in the book without actually destroying the essence of the exercise.
After all, Deadpool is capable of love — the universal source of redemption, even for supervillains.
Born as a man named Wade Wilson, a tough guy and debt collector, Deadpool became a mutant after undergoing a radical form of therapy to cure a terminal illness. Once a handsome human, he now looks like “an avocado” without hair.
On the upside, he’s immortal. Deadpool is impervious to bullets and bad falls, but where other superheroes seem to bounce and force armoured rounds to ricochet off their buff chests, Deadpool often ends up full of holes.
Symbolically, he’s not a “life force” but a “death force:” an incarnation of nihilism with a sassy sense of humour. He doesn’t give a shit anymore, and as a result, he embodies the current Zeitgeist better than any dull do-gooder.
In fact, it’s the tension between nihilist and idealist modes of thought that really fuel the drama in this particular movie as Deadpool looks to get even with Ajax (Ed Skrein), the freak who made him immortal and ugly, while trying to save the woman he loves.
The plot is tragically tedious and predictable, and the constant winks and nods will be an irritant to all non-fanboys. But the denouement is a complete delight thanks to Reynolds, who acrobatically defies the gravitas of Superman while letting his natural charm ooze through the suit. It’s like watching Charlie Chaplin on cinematic steroids: Comedy spectacle for the Everyman with just enough heart and soul to keep it human.
Photo: Brianna Hildebrand as X-Men’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool
THE EX-PRESS, February 10, 2016