Based on early footage, I thought “Deadpool” might be a shitshow. Trailers had the essence, the sardonic tone, the one-liners, all of that down pat, but they also promoted low-grade effects, DTV production values, and an iffy soundtrack. Here I am to breathe a sigh of relief, because the final product bears almost none of that.
On a $50 million budget, first-time director Tim Miller has made a crazy, not-at-all fugaze action flick that looks like a hundred million bucks. And it’s funny. Really funny. It’s not afraid to take chances, to call itself out, to thumb its nose at the genre, to utterly fire the piss out of four decades of superhero filmmaking. Ryan Reynolds has found his Iron Man, his Dark Knight, the defining role he’s been searching for and failing at in ill-advised adventures like “Green Lantern” and “R.I.P.D.” Wade Wilson fits him like a glove. This version is a serious step up from the Merc Without a Mouth he was blackmailed into playing in 2009’s godawful Wolverine movie. He’s got the cancer, the tragic romance, the whip-smart mouth, and that red and black get-up that perfectly resembles Spider-man wholly in tact. Monica Baccarin adds a seductive feminine spark to these masculine proceedings as Vanessa, the woman Wade meets cute at a makeshift bar for mercenaries, long before his cells mutate for good or bad. Underneath the raunchy dialogue and risque violence is a poignant love story, and the two of them sell it with sexual energy and romantic chemistry in spades.
As dull asshole and main baddie Ajax, Ed Skrein doesn’t fare as well, though he’s a far cry from his stoic blandness in the last Transporter movie. T.J. Miller is typically amusing as Wade’s friend and non-violent sidekick, able to match Reynolds quip for quip, ditto Leslie Uggams as Deadpool’s blind roommate. Miller utilizes narration and flashbacks, normally rote storytelling devices, to supremely riotous effect, and the character’s trademark fourth wall breaking is a breathe of fresh air as Pool himself acknowledges the rampant absurdities of characters like Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and Gina Carano’s meathead henchwoman Angel Dust. No longer the mute American brute portrayed by Daniel Cudmore in “X2” and “Days of Future Past,” Colossus represents a break in continuity from the rest of the X-men universe. Continuity’s a pet peeve of mine so this took some getting used to despite the Russian iteration’s comic-book origins. Fortunately, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were smart enough to highlight the idiosyncrasies of a metal giant with a boy scout’s morals and good manners, quickly endearing him to their audience. Miller’s satire is more hit than miss, with plenty of pointed barbs at the studio and blockbuster plotting to boot, not to mention what is quite possibly the greatest opening credits ever made. However, there are far too many “shits” for easy giggles among Pool’s witty repartee, the only time it feels like the film is trying too hard.
Fox has pulled off a precarious juggling act with “Deadpool,” a film that manages to wring both drama and comedy from what is, on the surface at least, a rather shallow enterprise. This easily could’ve been too glib, too smug, too everything. Instead it’s the funniest comic-book movie you’ll ever see (for a while anyways), and potentially the funniest thing you’ll see all year.