Saturday, February 13, 2016

"Deadpool"... and loving it!

Did you see X-Men Origins: Wolverine seven years ago?  Do you remember Ryan Reynolds portraying a character named Wade Wilson in that flick?  Do you recall he became a mutated monster they called “Deadpool” in that movie’s final act?  If you don't, then it's just as well, because we can now just pretend all that never happened. God knows comic nerds across the land have been trying to do just that, and Ryan Reynolds himself has been doing his darndest to make amends for that abomination ever since.

So, what is THIS movie?  Is it a Superhero movie?  Is is a love story?  Is it an Action/Revenge flick?  The short answer to all of these questions is “yes.” In the sense that the title character has appeared in various Marvel titles for the last twenty-five years, it’s a “Superhero” movie.  In the sense that we’re shown two seriously screwed-up individuals have a stereotypical movie “Meet-Cute” (as far as a disgraced mercenary and a prostitute can have a “Meet-Cute”) and realize they were meant for each other… and we as an audience actually buy into it, it’s a love story.  In the sense that a “British Bad Guy” kidnaps said girl and our hero will maim/mutilate/dismember/kill countless henchmen along the way to rescuing her, it’s an Action/Revenge movie.  Most of all, in the sense that Deadpool is a character that requires someone who is good at talking trash to play him, and Ryan Reynolds can certainly talk trash with the best of ‘em, then it’s a comedy… and possibly one of the raunchiest comedies you might see this year.

If any actor was ever born to play a certain role, Ryan Reynolds was born to play Wade Wilson, a former Special Ops soldier who, after being dishonorably discharged, becomes a mercenary, but has fallen to such menial work as protecting a college girl from a stalker. Wilson soon meets the love of his life, Vanessa (“Gotham” and “Homeland”'s Morena Baccarin), and the two find giddy teenaged-type raunchy happiness in each other until Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Rather than subject her to a life of having to watch him waste away, he disappears, but is found by a mysterious man from the same Weapon X program that produced Wolverine. This man in black (or “Agent Smith” as Wilson dubs him - rewatch The Matrix if you must) offers him a chance at curing his cancer while also gaining superpowers by means of procedures that involve extreme amounts of torture at the hands of the combination mad scientist/bodybuilder supervillain Ajax (Ed Skrein from Transporter: Refueled).  Wilson does have his cancer cured and does gain superpowers, mainly, the ability to heal himself from any wound, but it also permanently disfigures him.  After Wilson escapes the Weapon X program by blowing up the building and waiting while it burns down around him (he can heal from anything now, remember?), he assumes the name Deadpool and vows to find Ajax and have his revenge.  Pretty simple, right?  

Produced on a shoestring budget of $30 million (well, “shoestring” when compared to most other hundred-million dollar movies in the genre), Reynolds as producer and director Tim Miller take advantage of the lack of resources by having only two major action sequences and focusing on Deadpool’s acerbic personality, the very trait that has most endeared him to comic readers.  I can’t help but think that 20th Century Fox must have been collectively thinking, “Hell, we’re not giving them any real money, so let ‘em do whatever they want.”  After forty-plus years of watching movies, it is rare that I see something in a film that I haven’t seen in some shape or form before, but Deadpool provides that the instant the lights go down.  The opening credit sequence contains snarky descriptions that many a cynical moviegoer has said in his own head while reading credits before, but never actually seen written on screen.  Suffice to say that any director who credits himself as “Overpaid Tool” and his star as "Some Douchebag" has earned a little respect from me.  

Oh, sure, the framework of Deadpool is pretty stereotypical, in that we have the wise-cracking Best Friend (T.J. Miller, no relation to the film's director), the love interest, the afore-mentioned British Bad Guy, and a plot that doesn’t vary much from a Charles Bronson revenge yarn. What sets Deadpool apart is that it is a hyperactive, almost ADD-riddled exercise in fanboy-made cinema, and I don’t mean that as an insult. Deadpool is the superhero character (a term used very loosely in this case) you've never seen in one of these movies before, as he breaks the "fourth wall" a la Ferris Bueller on several occasions, addressing the audience directly, acknowledging the movie he’s in and even pointing out some of the tropes we all assume we’ll see in other superhero-type flicks.   

The insertion of a couple of X-Men trying to get Deadpool to temper his murderous ways throws yet another change in the mix, and also establishes that this story is set in the same universe as Fox’s other X-Men movies. Knowing this extremely R-rated story is taking place in the PG-13 world of X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past makes some of Deadpool’s in-jokes and asides all the more hilarious (“I just can’t keep up with all these changing timelines!” he even quips at one point).

There’s no doubt that Deadpool is not for everybody.  If you love Ryan Reynolds in a way that drove you to buy multiple copies of that People magazine that named him “Sexiest Man Alive” a few years back, then you may think this movie is for you.  It may not be.  Then again, you may be deranged enough to enjoy it.  I happened to think it was a tremendous, riotous hoot, but there’s no way I can tell you for sure what your take might be.  I’ll merely provide this bit of advice - this movie ain’t exactly Van Wilder with a mask and swords, but it’s sure as Hell not the Deadpool we were given in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  You can decide for yourself what to do with that assessment.