Wanna know what reading a Deadpool comic is like? It’s like waking up pants-less, ferociously hung over, and covered in a variety of cuts, bruises, and condiments, but then getting to eat a big stack of pancakes off the back of the hooker still sleeping next to you. Or, it infects your brain enough that those are the sort of similes you’re liable to cough up. And yet, for the reigning king of contemporary nerd humour, who plays like a cross between Kick-Ass and a Canadian Guardians of the Galaxy (smaller- scale and more belligerent), it’s been surprisingly agonizing bringing everyone’s favourite chimichanga-chomping Merc with the Mouth to the big screen in his own film. Thankfully, Fox’s common sense was tingling. So, fans: think long and hard (snicker) about the uncompromising, mostly amoral, full-on bonkers Deadpool movie you’d lacerate any limb for. Your wishes have finally been granted.
Debut director Tim Miller manages the impossible: a film quintessentially built on fan- service that doesn’t suck. It’s appropriate that Deadpool has borrowed DMX as his theme tune (at least until the George Michael kicks in), because this crudely charitable spirit ebbs throughout the flick. Want some deliciously profane, sex and hyper-violence-stuffed whimsy, replete with a Guardians-calibre hilariously on-point soundtrack, and the comic’s fourth wall-shattering snark integrated in a way that’s actually funny? How about daring to dream even bigger: a big studio production that mercilessly pokes fun at its skittish budget cuts, the former cinematic bungling of the titular antihero, and even the requisite Hugh Jackman appearance in every X-Men spin off – even the magical (jizzing) unicorn of a superhero origin story without waiting an hour for the lead to appear in costume. Want all of that? Wade gon’ give it to ya.
But don’t make the mistake of dismissing the film as a feature-length meme: Miller is savvy enough to understand there’s more to Deadpool than quips and dismemberment. Sure, the plot is about as flimsy and insubstantial as anything, but, like a messier, crunchier Guardians, that’s not the point. The point lies in the emotional and character beats. Like most of cinema’s funniest, Deadpool’s psychotic humour roots in real pain, and Miller doesn’t shy away, lingering on the physical and emotional pain of Wilson’s cancer and his multifaceted torture in attempting to cure it through forcible scientific mutation to a genuinely uncomfortable extent, to ensure that neither plays as gratuitous.
But lest you be feeling goth enough to slink off to the premiere of Blade III, the film’s real surprise is yet in store. For all the gleeful irony of its Valentine’s Day release, Deadpool is a surprisingly heartfelt, hilarious and tragic romance at its core. Yes, really. Only the most ‘Pool-schooled readers would recognize that peeling away the irreverence, pancakes, and phallic samurai swords reveals a hugely self-conscious, sentimental sap within, but Miller is clearly one of the initiated. Appropriately, some of the film’s most charming, hilarious, and devastating scenes involve Wilson daring to let his guard down enough to fall in love, and, like a reddit-rattling Phantom of the Opera, too crushingly ashamed to reconnect after his superpowered facelift leaves him looking like, as T.J. Miller’s Weasel puts it, “an avocado had sex with an older avocado”. This is about as profound as the character ever really gets, but there’s poignancy and pathos to be gleaned from Wilson’s grubby fumbling at sentiment, and Miller and Reynolds nail it here.
But don’t worry – we’re still miles away from the doom ‘n gloom of the average contemporary superhero austerity, and their generic ‘all the CGI sets crumble’ climaxes. Sure, Deadpool being pared down to three action sequences does draw attention to its comparatively tiny budget, but in this age of bloated superhero excess, seeing fights kept this lean is a godsend in itself, even if it weren’t clinched by a not-so-subtle hysterical recurring gag justifying their sparsity. Still, we’re hardly left wanting: the fights are short, snappy, creatively ultra-violent (“count the bullets” being the most meta and thrilling), and stylish as hell, just as they should be, while fellow X- folk Colossus (flawlessly animated and finally Russian; a hilariously po-faced foil) and Brianna Hildebrand’s amiably sulky Negasonic Teenage Warhead allow for some buddy banter and help keep the action beats bumping all the while.
There’s no secret that Deadpool is the Ryan Reynolds show though, and his burning passion for the character fuels a now career-defining performance. Imbued with the divine gift to make even the crudest riffing gleam with cheery, sparky charisma, Reynolds nails each beat of wacky humour, springy physicality and seething, volcanic rage and hurt so effortlessly there’s the uncanny feeling of him dripping ink from being lifted off the pages of a comic. Despite having to combat a disappointingly under-written part, Morena Baccarin matches Reynolds in adorable damaged snappiness, steering just shy of sultry, manic-pixie-dream-girl stereotype by keeping the right amount of crazy in her eyes. T.J. Miller is consistently hilarious and uncompromisingly unsentimental as Wilson’s buddy Weasel, while Ed Skrein as “that British villain” brings enough pompous, brawny sadism to make his Francis-ahem- Ajax only feel slightly generic. The under-used Leslie Uggams is perfectly salty as Deadpool’s crusty roommate Blind Al (not an abductee here ), making a recurring IKEA joke surprisingly sweet. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for half of Vancouver in the background.
I’d waste time with more adjectives, but you get the idea, and can use a thesaurus as well as me. Basically, Miller and Reynolds have delivered the most cathartically satisfying cinematic Deadpool imaginable, sure to capture the hearts or slice off the heads of diehards or inductees alike.
5 out of 5 stars