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“DEADPOOL” (Movie Review)

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“This is a horror movie,” the hero of DEADPOOL says at a crucial turning point in his saga, and I certainly wouldn’t argue with the guy.

Graphic and gory enough to satisfy any fan of straightforward scare cinema, DEADPOOL also does sneaky and snarky violence to the tropes of Marvel’s big-screen universe, relishing the opportunity to poke a bit of nasty fun at the multibillion-dollar franchise. The most direct target is the X-MEN series (from which the comics’ Deadpool hails, and which shares studio 20th Century Fox with this movie), but director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick cast their satirical net wide, across the spectrum of the fantastique. They make their funniest catch right at the beginning, with the best opening-credits sequence since, appropriately enough, WATCHMEN, the last hard-R superhero spectacular. (Careful how much you read on-line about these titles; I won’t spoil them, but several others already have.)

DEADPOOL is not all references to other properties, though—far from it. Above all, it’s a chance for Ryan Reynolds to completely cut loose in a role that fits him like a red-and-black full-body glove, and that he first briefly filled to comparatively neutered effect in 2009’s X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Now he gets to be front and center, wisecracking, shooting and slicing up a storm, and the film plunges him and us right into the fray from the get-go, i.e. an extravagantly staged multi-motor-vehicle pursuit on a crowded freeway. The gleefully anarchic tone is set right away, by both Deadpool’s fourth-wall-breaking asides and his cavalier, splattery dispatching of a series of enemies.

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Of course, the bodily and vehicular destruction is prologued with a short scene establishing that these are some very bad guys who deserve the justice Deadpool metes out against them, and our hero also hints to us that he’s on a personal mission against their reprehensible leader, Ajax (Ed Skrein). That, combined with Miller’s skillful staging and Reynolds’ effortless tossing off of some very clever lines by Reese and Wernick (whose previous credits include ZOMBIELAND), makes it easy to lose oneself in the high-spirited mayhem.

Eventually, the action takes a breather, and we get to know the backstory of Deadpool, a.k.a. Wade Wilson, who was once a mercenary for hire operating out of a bar full of guys bigger and meaner-looking than he, but none a match for his bad-assery. We also witness his politically incorrect courtship of and sexual history with the equally bad-ass Vanessa, played with gusto by sci-fi TV favorite Morena Baccarin, who shares genuine scrappy chemistry with Reynolds. Their relationship founded on equal “crazy” is oddly touching, and grounds a film that’s otherwise devoted to flying off the rails in all directions.

The course of their true love doesn’t run smooth, inevitably, and that’s where the horror-movie side comes in, when circumstances lead Wade to gain superhuman mutant abilities but also a horribly burned face. It’s a long and torturous transformation, though the choice to open with Deadpool in action and then flash back to all this suffering proves to be a canny one; it’s easier to endure along with him when given the foreknowledge of the what-me-worry? ass-kicker he’ll become. The switches in time also add a bit of a twist to what is, at its core, a very standard superhero-origin story, and some of the cockeyed fun drains off in the second half as the film dutifully hits the beats required to resolve such a narrative. In true world-building fashion, these come to involve a couple of other, pretty entertaining mutants: the towering, digitally conjured Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and wiseass teen Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).

If the basics of DEADPOOL are familiar, the devilish fun is in the details, and the filmmakers keep the gags and shoutouts coming nonstop. The movie contains what is probably the first and will likely stand as the best ALIEN 3 reference, and Reynolds even gets to poke fun at himself (including an obligatory GREEN LANTERN putdown) on a few occasions. A running joke has Deadpool commenting on his screen vehicle’s lack of a big budget, but even if the stakes are significantly lower than the fate of the world, the film possesses all the technical polish and FX eye candy its particular story requires. On a production level, DEADPOOL is up to snuff with its Marvel counterparts; it’s just up to snuffing out a lot more of its characters, and taking the form to extreme and obscene ends. It even gives Stan Lee his obligatory cameo in a place we might never have expected to see him, but that he very likely enjoyed inhabiting.

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About the author
Michael Gingold

Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.

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