Despite a lot of its meta gags falling flat, giddy lead Ryan Reynolds makes Deadpool's immature fuckery work
Sometimes the right actor can single-handedly save a film from near-catastrophe. And so it is with Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool, a passion project for the performer, who previously portrayed a bastardised version of the title character in the much-maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That previous turn at the bat for an on-screen Deadpool is explicitly referenced within Deadpool itself, as is Reynolds’ lead turn in another poorly received comic book adaptation, 2011’s Green Lantern. That’s right, kids, this is a fourth wall-breaking, meta movie spin on the superhero (well, he’s super-powered, not so much a hero) genre, rife with gore and cocksure swagger. Wait, don’t jump off that cliff!
Far too many of Deadpool’s jokes miss, particularly some pop culture gags that come across like holdovers from the comic’s 90s heyday (you sure showed up Limp Bizkit and Rosie O’Donnell there, guys). That being said, as the film goes forward (and this is a welcomingly breezy superpower tale in the age of Age of Ultron) it develops something of a winning charm, despite all its mixed-to-failed attempts at transgression and tendency towards the same genre beats it openly mocks; having Reynolds say “I could have made you in a computer” about his love interest (played by Morena Baccarin) doesn’t actually excuse the flimsiness of her role as written.
Reynolds’ giddiness (see: actual skipping during a mass execution scene) at playing this insane, virtually indestructible mercenary has an infectious quality about it, and helps the gags that do hit (mostly in the second half) to soar, even if you can never quite shake the feeling that the eponymous ‘merc with a mouth’ is just a spandex-clad Frankenstein’s Monster of Bugs Bunny, Sterling Archer, and the puppet Gabbo from The Simpsons (“I’m a bad widdle boy!”).
In any other star’s hands, this film would likely be as smug and insufferable throughout as it initially looks to be in its hard-going opening stretch. As a whole, Deadpool is by no means a great or even very good superhero subversion, but it’s a welcome breath of fresh air formally. Say what you want about the tenets of immature fuckery, at least it’s an ethos.
Released by 20th Century Fox