A film review by Craig J. Koban February 20, 2016


2016, R, 108 mins.


Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson / Deadpool  /  Morena Baccarin as Vanessa Carlysle / Copycat  /  T.J. Miller as Weasel  /  Ed Skrein as Ajax  /  Gina Carano as Angel Dust  /  Brianna Hildebrand as Ellie Phimister / Negasonic Teenage Warrior  /  Andre Tricoteux as Piotr Rasputin / Colossus  /  Jed Rees as The Recruiter  /  Leslie Uggams as Blind Al

Karan Soni as Dopinder

Directed by Tim Miller  /  Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

DEADPOOL marks the only time in big screen Marvel super hero history that its title mutant character refers to another hero as – ahem! – a “chrome cock-gobbler.” 

Right out of the gate, DEADPOOL emphatically states its case for being in a whole other league apart from not only other Marvel films, but also from all other films based on costume clad crusaders of justice…period.   It’s a film that gleefully and perversely wears its R-rating like a proud badge of honor, but DEADPOOL is certainly not the only hard-edged and adult-content laced comic book film to have graced the cinemas (WATCHMEN, THE CROW, the two PUNISHER films, just to name a few) and its certainly not the first to cheekily send up the whole genre with a subversive wink-wink delight (KICK-ASS).  

Yet, what makes DEADPOOL feel like a cutting edge super hero film is simply in how much it systematically pushes the very established boundaries of its genre.  Extremely far removed from the obligatory handling of the hero’s journey origin films we’ve grown way too accustomed to over the years, DEADPOOL demonstrates – with copious amounts of vulgar mischief, an aggressive and inviting meta-film sense of humor, and a willingness to go for broke and potentially offend every relative taste – that new life can be breathed into super hero films that are potentially suffocating from the weight of their own stale contrivances. 

DEADPOOL might be the most self-aware super film ever made.  It’s a super hero film that knows it’s a super hero film that also finds time to mock itself – and other popular examples – because it’s a super hero film.  The Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza created anti-hero has a motormouth so irreproachably unhinged and unchecked that he makes Spider-man look shy and timid.  Not only that, but Deadpool does something that no other mainstream super hero has done in a feature film before: He brakes the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience, pontificating on the nature of comic book movies as a whole while openly ridiculing the limitations of the very film he resides in due to budgetary restrictions.  Early on in DEADPOOL – while casually sitting on a street bridge, in full costume, drawing infantile pictures in crayon of himself slaughtering his enemies with machine gun fire – the “merc with the mouth” matter-of-factly informs us “from the studio that inexplicably sewed my fucking mouth shut the first time comes…me!”  Clearly, this is a reference to his character’s universally panned appearance in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.  Gotta give it to the guy...even he’s not too proud to admit that his last film sucked. 



DEADPOOL, even for the manner that it ostensibly tramples on established super hero genre troupes, is still, when it boils right down to it, a fairly ordinary origin film.  Before he became a red-hooded sociopathic hero, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) was a former Special Forces operative that earned a living doing odd jobs for people in need.  His co-pilot on such ventures is his buddy Weasel (T.J. Miller), who runs a local watering hole.  Wade does find some pleasure in his mostly solitude life when he meets and falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), whom he plans to wed.  Unfortunately, Wade discovers that he has late-stage cancer, which puts his plans on immediate hold.  Fate steps in, though, in the form of a shadowy organization dedicated to human experimentation that just could save his life and cure his cancer.  Realizing that he has no other options, Wade abruptly leaves Vanessa and agrees to become a human guinea pig. 

It’s pretty clear right from the get-go that these underground experiments are definitely off the books.  Wade is bound to a gurney and placed under the “care” of Ajax (Ed Skrein), who’s in charge of ensuring that Wade evolves from man to mutant…but only during the most physically tortuous procedures possible.  Poor Wade becomes horribly scarred via his ordeal and is betrayed by Ajax, but even though his whole body looks, as Weasel deadpans, “like the topographical map of Utah,” Wade emerges with newfound abilities, like, for instance, the fact that he can regenerate and heal and is seemingly un-killable.  Making himself a crimson suit, Wade dons the guise of Deadpool to seek very, very bloody comeuppance against Ajax, but he meets opposition along his journey in the form of a pair of X-Men in Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), the latter being the aforementioned “chrome cock-gobbler” that wants Deadpool to pursue Ajax using more peaceful means.  

Yup.  Sure.  Right.  Uh-huh. 

One thing that separates Deadpool immediately from the super hero pack is that…well…he’s an asshole.  He’s simply not nice and by no means an “honourable” hero.  His greatest weapon is not so much his guns (which he keeps in a Hello Kitty duffle bag), but rather his insatiable desire…to not shut up.  With an erratic sense of humor and borderline insane improvisational delivery – which may or may not be the mental side-effect of his hellishly disfigured mug – Deadpool finds humor during the most seemingly inopportune moments, often at the expense of angering his enemies even further.  Beyond being a verbal dynamo that uses words as a form of psychological warfare, Deadpool operates under no apparent moral code.  He indiscriminately kills his victims without blinking or thinking twice, making him a hero with a hyperactive thirst for ultra-violent reprisals.  Don’t injure him, though, in a fight.  That makes him extremely cranky…especially if he gets shot, for instance, in an orifice that not even a self-healing mutant wants to have – cough, cough! – penetrated. 

Despite the maliciously barbaric violence presented on screen, DEADPOOL is extremely uproarious at times and features more genuine and macabre laughs than a handful of recent comedies that I’ve seen.  Most of the humor, as mentioned, comes in the form of Deadpool’s tirades directed at the super hero genre (the film opens with a bravura opening title card sequence, during which time the film hysterically mocks the listed credited people behind the camera as “asshats” and “tools” while also showing Reynolds' People Magazine cover for Sexiest Man Alive).  At one point Deadpool deals directly with the big question of how his very film even got the greenlight, insisting that he needed to fondle a "big player’s" genitalia to get the gig (“I’ll give you all a hint…it rhymes with ‘Polverine!'”).  No more is the film’s bawdy and infectious drollness on display than when Deadpool shows up at, yup, the X-Men’s mansion: Firstly, he ridicules the Bryan Singer helmed franchise regarding how many times the home has been blown up in past films, only then to immediately debate as to which Professor X he'll meet – James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart?  Then he becomes miffed at the fact that there are conveniently only a couple of mutants at the residence.  “Wow, this is such a big house, but it’s only the two of you here?!  It’s like the studio didn’t have enough money for another X-Men film!” 

I haven’t said much about Ryan Reynolds so far.  He’s an actor that has leapfrogged from films of varying and woefully inconsistent quality for a majority of his career, everything from egregiously terrible comedies (VAN WILDER) to masterfully intense thrillers (BURIED) to, yes, mostly forgettable comic book films (GREEN LANTERN and BLADE: TRINITY).  To be fair, I’ve often criticized the level of smarmy, cocksure arrogance that Reynolds has brought to many past roles as being nearly insufferable at times, but it’s those very traits that fits Deadpool like a proverbial glove.  Finally, there seems to be a character that Reynolds can joyously sink his teeth into and fully utilize his main strengths as an actor.  His performance here is kind of tricky in the sense that he has to play Deadpool as broadly as possible but, somehow and someway, not make the character a crude, one-note caricature.  Reynolds can unleash verbal zingers with a rapid fire and deeply assured bravado with the best of them and fully embraces the carnival-like lunacy of this film, but he also imbues Deadpool with – as odd as it sounds - a heart beneath his murderous and wisecracking ways.    

While watching DEADPOOL I was constantly reminded of something that director Oliver Stone once said: "Films need to be subversive in order for them to be any good, because they force you to look for and ask hard questions that don't have easily defined answers."  DEADPOOL, in many ways, defies simple-minded and easy labeling and is certainly a daring comic book film.  Hot damn, is it ever.  However, it paradoxically gets bogged down in many of the conventions of the super hero genre that it goes out of its way to send up.  The origin story itself is fairly paint-by-numbers and doesn’t really break much new ground, and Ed Skrein’s main antagonist (despite being effectively reptilian in his vindictiveness) is an underwritten baddie.  And for as much as DEADPOOL insolently rips apart super hero movie clichés, the film that he populates, when all is said and done, culminates in a large scale, action and VFX heavy finale that involves saving the damsel in distress that’s been done countless times before.  Yet, those are nitpicks, because DEADPOOL triumphantly emerges as an audacious original for the most part that yearns for – and succeeds at – delivering non-family friendly comic book fare to the multiplexes.  The film may be somewhat guilty of adhering to some of the genre’s worn-out formulas, but it sure as hell has delirious fun at skewering them – as its anti-hero would say – “like a fuckin’ kabob!”

  H O M E