The wait is over. After years of fans begging, and months of weird, wonderful and wall-to-wall movie marketing, “Deadpool” is finally here. So how does this R-rated adventure live up to the hopes and the hype? Well, it’s grotesquely violent, unrepentantly obscene, and slathered in a wise-ass attitude. So, “Deadpool” is fucking awesome.
Ryan Reynolds reprises the role once sullied in “X-Men: Origins: Wolverine.” But aside from some meta gags, that let’s-forget-that-ever-happened prequel is ignored in favor of a rebooted origin. Thankfully, “Deadpool” screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick spare us the straightforward “here’s how I became super” story, and instead chuck audiences right into the fray from the first frame with a graphic and gonzo action sequence that boasts a ghoulish decapitation, a gaping gunshot wound where the sun don’t shine and a hulking henchman splattered into oblivion as if he were an overripe tomato.
From there, we dive into Wade Wilson’s mercenary backstory. He was once a killer-for-hire with a soft spot for “the little guy,” and a prostitute girlfriend (“Firefly”s Morena Baccarin), his perfect match in politically incorrect banter and salacious sexcapades. Then their eccentric but blissful bond was severed by the one-two punch of cancer and a desperate life-saving experiment gone horrifically wrong. So now, Deadpool is out to get Ajax (“Game of Thrones” Ed Skrein) the menacing mutant who made him look like “a testicle with teeth.”
But revenge isn’t Deadpool’s only motive. This is also a love story. And a horror movie. And a superhero tale. Zigging from mind-blowing action set pieces studded with sick quips to a body horror sequence in the gnarly vein of “Frankenstein,” to a falling-in-love montage made up entirely of kinky sex scenes, “Deadpool” is all over the place and dizzying. But it works! Perhaps precisely because it puts us in the mindset of this deeply mixed up merc. First-time feature film director Tim Miller deserves major props for stitching these disparate sections and tones into such an exhilarating ride spiked with humor that is in turn sophomoric and smart, but always on target.
Of course, “Deadpool”s success comes in no small part to a pitch-perfect cast, led by a wisecracking Reynolds. For years, Hollywood hasn’t known what to do with this “Sexiest Man Alive” and his caustic charm. But here Reynolds has his role of a lifetime. The snark-spitting star clearly relishes Deadpool’s every profanity-laced line, outlandish stunt and fourth wall-breaking direct address, including one right out the gate where he declares with an unhinged enthusiasm, “What balls did I have to fondle to get my own movie?”
Reynolds’ manic and mad energy fuels the film, but it’s his chemistry with Baccarin that sells the love story. The two are white-hot together. Whether they’re competing over whose childhood was more traumatic or challenging each other to new extremes of holiday-themed humping, they feel like a real couple who really enjoys each other. So, for all of Deadpool’s personal flaws, you can’t help but pull for these two as they fight for happiness against Skrein’s vicious villain.
With a winsome sneer, Skrein does a far better Jason Statham imitation as this British badass than he managed in “The Transporter Refueled.” Both he and Wade get some stellar sidekicks who are used smartly yet sparingly. Typically cast as an idiotic loudmouth, T.J. Miller serves as a solid straight man for Deadpool, with just a touch of stoner goofiness. Stefan KapiÄiÄ‡ brings life to the giant metal mutant (and X-Men fan favorite) Colossus, whose thick but warm Russian accent entreats Deadpool to be more than super, but a superhero. Newcomer Brianna Hildebrand brings a grudging charm to X-Men trainee Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who lends her explosive powers to Deadpool’s fight when she’s not busy tweeting.
Miller (the director, not the actor) makes great use of the beautiful action star Gina Carano, whose fighting skills — if not acting chops — thrilled in “Haywire” and “Fast & Furious 6.” As Ajax’s right hand woman Angel Dust, Carano, with her muscular build and cold glare makes for an instantly intimidating foe. She’s spared from speaking much, but knows how to sell a joke, and positively slays in the film’s bonkers climax, full of “whoa!”-worthy moments.
With the superhero genre showing no signs of slowing down, “Deadpool” is a refreshing break from the established norm. Freed from the style guide and demanding continuity of Marvel Studios‘ sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Deadpool” can be as dirty, bizarre, and jaw-droppingly violent as it wants to be. This is the “Deadpool” movie we’ve been wishing for. Gleefully hard-R, it’s free to set itself apart from the family-friendly Marvel and dedicatedly gritty DC brands to construct its own blood-drenched, boner-boasting, f-bomb dropping franchise. And all the while it pays earnest but irreverent tribute to the rise in nerd culture that made this movie possible, with scads of allusions not only to its comic book roots but also from everything from “Adventure Time” to “Voltron” and “Star Trek.”
It’s remarkable. On paper, this project is almost entirely made up of red flags of why this particular superhero flick shouldn’t work, from tonal mash-up to its adults-only content and its failure-to-launch lead. Yet Miller and Reynolds bring it all together, not only making something hilarious, thrilling, romantic and fun but also making “Deadpool” one of the most satisfying superhero movies the world has ever seen.
“Deadpool” opens February 12.