Vancouver actor Ryan Reynolds (also a producer on the film) gets his fifth shot* at starring in a big screen comic book adaptation and second chance at portraying the fourth wall breaking "Merc with a Mouth" (aka Wade Wilson) after playing a less than faithful, alternate version of the same character in the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine prequel. To that end, Deadpool is mostly the hard R-rated, spin-off action comedy movie version of the Marvel Comics anti-hero you didn't know you always wanted loosely set in the X-Men mutant film universe.
Accomplished visual effects artist Tim Miller (co-founder of Blur Studio) makes his directorial debut from a script by Zombieland scribes Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. The team brings a brisk pace and fairly polished style to the cinematic mayhem going big and bold with plenty of wisecracking jokes, meta references, and more than enough comic ultraviolence. It's no wonder China banned the film for its graphic violence, nudity, and explicit language. There's even an extended scene set in the notorious No. 5 Orange strip club.
The cast is an eclectic bunch including comedian T.J. Miller as scene stealer and best friend, Weasel, adding more than enough comic relief; a very game Morena Baccarin as an atypical girlfriend/damsel in distress, Vanessa; Ed Skrein as the generic British villain Ajax; MMA fighter Gina Carano as the ultimate henchman, Angel Dust; Tony-award winning actress Leslie Uggams as roommate Blind Al; Brianna Hildebrand as moody sidekick Negasonic Teenage Warhead; and Stefan Kapičić playing fan favourite and Russian X-Men team member, Colossus. However, it's really Reynolds who holds the film together with his worthy effort and energy propelling most scenes and stringing the refreshingly low-stakes story together.
Reynolds gets to show his range, particularly his comedic skills (think Van Wilder) and ability to evoke sympathy even as a twisted romantic lead. This happens all the while the character executes some incredibly violent acts as Deadpool unsurprisingly delights in its many juvenile gags and lowbrow humour referencing real-life starting starting from an absurd opening credits sequence mocking everything in the X-Men franchise.
The film occasionally flirts with being a more original take on the played out superhero origin formula with a suitable non-linear, flashback style narrative full of self-mocking narration. It's too bad the fast-paced ride, by sometimes trying so hard to be different, naturally conforms to many hallmarks of the well-worn comic book hero formula, albeit in its own unique way.
The highly stylized Deadpool is most successful in bucking a few of the more conventional trends of the superhero genre and most comic book troupes. Reynolds' comedic and star presence is well suited to the modern cinematic interpretation of the character and all its knowing comic self-awareness. The Vancouver shot comic book film mostly lives up to its equally creative and amusing viral marketing campaign as a filthy action comedy with just enough (anti-)superhero sensibilities.
* after Blade: Trinity, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Green Lantern, and R.I.P.D.
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