Exhibiting a hearty dose of irony and a mordant sense of humor, DEADPOOL exuberantly embraces the conventions of the super-hero genre while fearlessly pricking the more pretentious conventions of same. There is in this tale of a man who has super powers, but refuses to be a hero, evinces a bold and bracing willingness to engage in a complicated form of self-reference and self-mockery that fearlessly breaks the fourth wall with a breathtaking geometric progression through time and space and other movies while including us in on the joke. The opening credits set the mood by eschewing names in favor of archetypes. You know, “overpaid tool” instead of director Tim Miller, and “comic relief” and “hot chick” instead of T.J. Miller and Morena Baccarin.
The eponymous Deadpool is a fool for love. Or, more strictly speaking, a man, in his previous incarnation as Wade Wilson, willing to do anything to spare Vanessa (Baccarin), a tough cookie and his one true love, the pain of seeing him die a slow and painful death. You wouldn’t expect this ex-special ops guy and current mercenary, one given to sweet-and-sour pizza and definite views on denim, to be this sentimental, but there’s something about Vanessa’s spunky attitude and holiday spirit in the boudoir that melts his heart. Hence turning himself over to a smooth talker (Jed Rees) who promises to cure his illness and make him a superhero. From the start, Wade is hip to the super, but never comes close to digging the hero part.
Things, of course, are far more complicated, as we learn in the flashbacks that accompany Deadpool taking a taxi to his field of vengeance. That would be against Francis (Ed Skrein), the petulant mad scientist who hates his name and tortured Wade into mutating into the immortal Deadpool, a process that gave him the power of instant regeneration, but, alas, robbed him of his boyish good looks, which has kept him from letting Vanessa know he is still in the land of the living. He’s also dodging Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), a courtly chrome giant set on recruiting him for the X-Men, and out-snarking Colossus’ moody teenage sidekick (Brianna Hildebrand).
If the plotline is perfunctory, but the pace is electric, and the action that includes explosions, deadly shipping crates, and Reynolds bare buttocks in a burning building, is as profane and yet insouciant as Deadpool himself, who engages in graceful acro-gymnastics amid the havoc he wreaks while cracking wise before, during, and after cracking heads. Why fill in the blanks, though, when we can see Deadpool work through several iterations of his nifty spandex outfit, and bicker with his cantankerous blind roommate (Leslie Uggams making a ferocious comeback) while waiting for his regenerating hand to grow to full size?
It all could have devolved into a stale joke, and pretty quickly, but Reynolds, who has been trying to get this character to the screen for a decade, has the spark for that ci-mentioned snark. If it were just that, DEADPOOL would be a middling farce. Reynold, though, finds more here. The faux sincerity as he delivers a stiletto sharp riposte to the world at large has a completely different emotional shade from the nimble banter with Baccarin, from their first date as they try to one-up each other’s heretofore miserable lives, to his proposal with an oversized ring that has been in an unfortunate hiding place. The connection, never syrupy, is subtly grounded, never interfering with the arch deadpan, but providing the driving force for both the character and his story.
DEADPOOL provides Stan Lee one of his best trademark cameos ever, and just when you think there’s nothing left for it to make sport of, the teaser after the credits also breaks new ground, making the familiar seem not only fresh, but also slightly subversive.