Based on the Marvel comic character created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, the film is directed by Tim Miller and stars Reynolds as Wade Wilson, a wise-cracking mercenary who falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a prostitute he meets at a bar run by his best friend Weasel (T.J. Miller), but their blissful happiness is rudely shattered when Wade is diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer. In desperation, Wade submits himself to the care of the sinister Ajax (Ed Skrein) who promises to cure his disease and turn him into a superhero in the process.
Deadpool unleases a torrent of action, lashings of gore, and gives Stan Lee one of his best cameos to date
Unfortunately, Ajax's method involves torturing Wade until his body releases latent mutant powers, which it eventually does, curing his cancer and giving him the power of super-fast regenerative healing, but turning him into something resembling the De Niro version of Frankenstein's monster in the process. After donning a red and black superhero suit and adopting the name Deadpool, Wade vows revenge and pursues Ajax, believing that he's capable of restoring his looks.
Deadpool's gimmick in the comics is that he's continually aware that he's a comic-book character, so there are frequent fourth wall breaks where he talks to the reader. The film pulls off the same trick, with Deadpool constantly aware of both the camera and the audience, who he frequently addresses either in voiceover narration or directly, to camera, often in the middle of an action sequence.
Augmented by Julian Clarke's snappy editing, the conceit of having Deadpool narrate his own origin story works well, as it allows the film to jump more or less straight into the action, with occasional breaks for flashbacks. This also effectively covers up the fact that there's really very little to the non-origin plot, outside of chasing and catching Ajax.
Rated 15 in the UK and R in the States, the film takes full advantage, unleashing a torrent of action, lashings of gore, and gives Stan Lee one of his best cameos to date, as the MC at a strip club and some surprising boundary-pushing, notably a suggestive moment during a smartly executed love scene montage sequence that takes place over a year of Wade and Vanessa's relationship.
Reynolds is a gifted comic actor and he couldn't be more perfect in the role, which fully exploits his wise-cracking skills, his bone-dry delivery and his way with a filthy one-liner (see Blade: Trinity for previous highlights in the potty-mouth department), as well his sort of just-under-the-surface self-awareness – even in his normal films you feel like he's seconds away from a knowing glance to camera.
Reynolds is a gifted comic actor and he couldn't be more perfect in the role
The supporting cast are equally good, particularly T.J. Miller and Baccarin (both of whom generate strong chemistry – comic and sexual, respectively – with Reynolds), while Stefan Kapicic and Brianna Hildebrand are a lot of fun as Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, two of the X-Men, who Deadpool drafts in to help him take down Ajax and his super-strong sidekick Angel Dust (Gina Carano, wisely given minimal lines).
Rhett Reese and Paul Wenick's screenplay stays commendably faithful to the comics character, capturing the irreverence and using that as an excuse to get in several very funny send ups about superhero movies in general (the opening credits are a brilliant joke in themselves and there's an early gag about fondling Wolverine to get the movie made) as well as a variety of pop-culture targets, even if it occasionally gets a little too meta for its own good – e.g. an admittedly good joke about Professor X - “McAvoy or Stewart? I get confused by these alternate timelines” - nonetheless backfires as it jolts you out of the film.
Simply put, this turns out to be a hugely entertaining comic-book movie thanks to a sharply written script and a terrific star turn from Ryan Reynolds.
Deadpool is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 10th February.
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