Deadpool is technically the first of many “superhero” films for 2016, though the titular Merc With a Mouth would likely say (directly to the audience) that such a moniker doesn’t fit him. This X-Men spinoff – in a technical sense that doesn’t directly reference the character’s previous continuity in 2009’s colossal dud X-Men Origins: Wolverine beyond a few self aware nods – hinges on the madcap personality of the red suited lead, who mouths off insults, pop culture references and fourth wall breaking giddiness in order to stand out from the pack of X-Men and Avengers. Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of the characters is very different than even the biggest wisecracker of a Tony Stark more so than it’s surprisingly traditional origin story structure would have you believe. Seriously, the beats of many a superhero starting point can be tracked here. A tragic backstory that leaves our hero literally scarred? Check. The supportive loved one he left behind and can’t face in his current condition? Present. A chase after the scheming villain who put him in this state? All there, black & white, clear as crystal.
Yet, despite the traditional plot points and a few disappointments that may feel extremely familiar to anyone who’s seen more than one Marvel Comics film adaptation, the leaning on Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool manages to wash away much of potential low points. But it’s not just because of the wise cracks towards the screen or his supporting X-players. Reynolds manages to show off not just the comedic chops people knew he could do in even his weakest comedic efforts, but chomps at every single bit to give them a genuine consistency within the character. When Deadpool makes a clever quip, there’s a clear motivation for it that differs at every second. The schizophrenia nature of his dialogue and flexible body language is crucial to having the character walk the tight rope between annoying and vulgarly endearing, which Ryan Reynolds prances on with perfect poise. He sells all the self loathing, regret and tragedy of the character with every delivery. The dedication he has to the character shows in every frame, even when the story dives into more two dimensional territory with his backstory.
The latter point also works based on the strengths of not just Reynolds, but his fellow cast members. Morena Boccarin’s character is pretty much written as a rather thin “awesome girlfriend” type character that could have very easily bordered on a sort of warped masking the manic pixie dream girl type. Yet, Boccarin and Reynolds’ chemistry manages to shine through far more than expected, strengthening some of the more repetitive jokes and concepts with a back & forth that raises the material to something that feels more genuine. That sense of chemistry is also shared between Reynolds and his more comedic foils, whether they be the acerbically crass TJ Miller or the goody two shoes Stefan Kapicic as the best of version of X-Men character Colossus by default. Not as impactful is Ed Skerin as our villain Ajax/Francis, who plays the rather generic villain with all the gusto of a third rate Jason Statham. The film tension of Deadpool‘s search for him heavily depends on us loving to hate the character who has done this wrong, but Skerin’s oddly laid back portrayal of the character has all the despicable menace of a secondary henchman rather than our main antagonist.
Director Tim Miller is more experienced as a special effects artist, which can be seen in some of the more creative moments of Deadpool‘s action and his extremely expressive eyes. Unfortunately, most of these moments occur during the extensive freeway chase/confrontation, leaving the rest of the action sequences to pale in comparison. It’s not that these set pieces are poorly constructed as much as they are forgettably passive, forgoing the ultra violent style of the earlier sequence for some rather unremarkable gun toting/sword play and one rather limp explosion that leads to a falling CGI object fest. Still, the consistency of attitude, joke-to-joke hit ratio and the investment had with Reynolds’ character stays true enough to get through the lacking action and villain, particularly when our “hero” comes to a seemingly “major” choice. Moments like this could be seen from a few steps ahead, but the delivery of the joke is so on point that one can’t help but smile. And a consistent grin is ultimately what a film as irreverent and silly as Deadpool mainly strives for, which is refreshing for a genre usually dependent on the over extensive special effects dazzle shows that can often run together. Deadpool isn’t as consistently subversive as it could be with its extraneous elements, but it more than achieves its goal of selling its titular character in a way that leaves a charmingly greasy shine on the lesser elements… even if it’s via the most likely method of having Deadpool rub a chimichanga on the camera lens.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Bullets in the Chamber