If you are not a die-hard geek or comic book fan, there’s a chance you’ve never heard of “Deadpool,” a mercenary anti-hero that debuted in 1991 as a fringe character in the “X-Men” universe of Marvel Comics. After a brilliant marketing campaign leading up to this Presidents’ Day/Valentine’s Day holiday weekend, you will never forget him. Take all of the pathos, mythology, gravitas, nobility, and world-rescuing heroism have you come to expect from a superhero film, throw them out the window, and light them on fire. “Deadpool” is the most red-faced and side-splitting movie of the comic genre to date. It makes “Guardians of the Galaxy” look like C-SPAN when it comes to non-stop action and humor.
From the opening credits that glide through a freeze-frame of manic action chock full of sight gags while assigning mocking titles like “a–hats,” “tool,” and “CGI character” where proper names belong, you will immediately feel the wildly different, referential, energetic, and self-deprecating timbre of “Deadpool.” Ryan Reynolds stars in a role the motor-mouthed Canadian has been born to play since “Van Wilder.” He is Wade Wilson, a former government assassin who now works as a semi-benevolent mercenary-for-hire out of a seedy bar tended by his best friend named Weasel (T.J. Miller). He’s hopelessly in sexy love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a strip club waitress and kindred spirit to Wade’s filthy brand of kink.
The two dirty lovebirds are rocked by a late stage cancer diagnosis that gives Wade mere months to live. Refusing to let Vanessa see him deteriorate, he leaves her and takes a flyer on an experimental program run by the Francis “Ajax” Freeman (Ed Skrein) that promises to probe Wade’s latent mutant regenerative powers to heal any injury, including cancer. The host requires trauma from Ajax, that soon turns into torture, to provoke the mutation. The tests scar Wade’s body and warp his mind. The twisted new Wade escapes with revenge towards Ajax on his mind to fix the body he destroyed.
“Deadpool” tells what would normally be a typical superhero origin story in a very non-linear fashion. To the informed, Deadpool is a nut job that breaks the fourth wall repeatedly to narrate his life and story. The origin chapters are intercut with that opening credits action sequence. It is the same scene that was born out of the famously leaked 2012 test footage that got this movie off the ground in 2014 for first-time feature director Tim Miller. Collecting itself (and its tangents) and springing forward, Wade creates the Deadpool moniker and intersects with his new blind landlord (Leslie Uggams), X-Men members Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Ajax’s right-hand muscle Angel Dust (Gina Carano), and best Stan Lee cameo ever on his road of rancor.
Ryan Reynolds completely redeems his sordid “Green Lantern” failure as a superhero from 2011 and his own butchering of the Wade Wilson character from 2009’s polarizing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Without his game attitude, body language, and vivacity to provide the loquacious punch necessary and deserved for this character, “Deadpool” would fall flat on its mutilated face. This is the peak of Reynolds’ untapped charisma that we’ve been missing for a long time while he slept through films like “Woman in Gold” and “Self/less.” He needed this.
This film is an absolute riot from start to finish. Every superhero cliche, tense situation, and casual moment, ranging from standoffs to cab rides, becomes ripe for witty quips, 80’s music drops, pop culture references, jovial wisecracks, barbed comebacks, and blatantly dirty jokes of playful and unlimited obscenity. No topic is out-of-bounds and “Deadpool” skewers its peers with constant self-awareness. You would think the humor would grow tiring or take away from the peppy pace of the action, but it never does. The vulgarity is what cements its successful and diverse tone. Pairing the barrage of tomfoolery with the bloodbath violence, you better leave the kids at home for this one.
Lesson #1: Life is a string of correcting bad decisions— Wade is the kind of guy that fully believes that any time he’s happy is just a temporary waiting period for the next thing to go wrong or next good thing to end. He identifies the bad decisions that put him in his present condition and looks to right them and win back his girl.
Lesson #2: We need more non-prudish superheroes— There are anti-heroes like Wolverine and The Punisher and then there’s Deadpool on another plateau. He says all of the unbelievable things that our inner fanboys wish superheroes would say, all of the taunts, all of the elation, and all of the expletives. His WTF moments match ours with giddy enthusiasm.
Lesson #3: Retaining your personality in the midst of hardship— With all of the horrible crap that happens to this character, how and why does Deadpool keep spitting jokes? It’s because this character has the bona fide personality of a confident extrovert, not a brooding or angst-ridden wuss. It is a complexion that feels immediately fully-formed compared to other origin stories of tedious and predictable self-discovery (you know, like every single “Spider-Man” film).