Review: 'Deadpool'

'Deadpool' appeals to the lowest common denominator, but that's kind of the point.
SEX AND VIOLENCE: In the Ryan Reynolds-starring 'Deadpool,' every noble superhero quality is 'tossed aside in favor of mindless, speedy sadism.'

There isn't an aspect of superhero lore that isn't rubbished by the Apatow-meets-Spider-Man comedy Deadpool.

By the lights of this decade's movie making, that's a lot of rubbishing: a defacing of the nocturnal sacrifice of Batman; a mocking of the touching shyness of The Thing when he's romancing his little blind girlfriend; a satire of Superman's crushing sense of responsibility. Here, all these noble qualities the movies usually ask us to honor are tossed aside in favor of mindless, speedy sadism. Deadpool is all about the importance of quipping when killing—and making the quip suit the killing.

It's the kind of movie that comes along when a genre is running out of ideas and patience. Wade (Ryan "The Arch-Bro" Reynolds) was once a violent mercenary, temporarily redeemed from his cruel life by love for a prostitute, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Now terminal cancer has come for him.

"Cancer is a shit show," Wade says. "It's like Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctors at the Iowa State Fair." Seeking a solution, Wade is fried in a gene-scrambling hyperbaric chamber by a vicious criminal mastermind known as Ajax (Ed Skrein). When the DNA fixing is all done, Wade looks like a man of living pizza.

A thoroughly disfigured but nigh-immortal vigilante with mutant healing skills, Deadpool claims "I'm not the hero, I'm the bad guy who fucks up worse guys." Carrying samurai swords and a pistol, this maniac busts heads while breaking the fourth wall, an amazing novelty for those who never saw Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. During his mission, he's forced into partnership with a pair of figures of (relative) sanity: Brianna Hildebrand, as the sulky yet explosive Negasonic Teenage Warhead, as well as the X-Man known as Colossus—a big, over-sincere Yakov Smirnoff of living chrome.

As Ajax, Skrein is big and snidely British—and his superpower is the inability to feel pain. But Skrein demonstrates the principle that it's better to have a real actor siccing the ginormous muscle man on our protagonist, than for said muscular brute to be the head villain.

Coiffed with the cropped, asymmetrical hairstyle of Hopi Glass in Love and Rockets, Baccarin gets to go appealingly lowdown. She's been perhaps too stately, as the sacred courtesan in Firefly/Serenity and as the ridiculously nice girlfriend of Commissioner Gordon in Gotham. We don't expect our movie love-objects to know how to peg their men, far less to the music of Neil Sedaka. It's low stuff—please understand that Deadpool is low, low stuff. Yet one approves of the pegging scenes. Here, as in 50 Shades of Black, it teaches the menfolk to respect the ladies.

That dildoing may be the only thing we're supposed to feel, from the ending to the beginning—a 3-D freeze-frame of Deadpool renovating a fleet of Chevy Suburbans packed with thugs, using everything from a cigarette lighter to the schoolyard wedgie as weapons. Deadpool is as laughable as it is mean, but it's strange how one starts to respond to a half-coalesced moment of moral centering, in what's supposed to be a boring speech by Colossus. What's so funny about justice and mercy?

As Deadpool has all the stark realism of a Rob Liefeld pose, one wonders what the film offers to someone who is not—either currently or formerly—a bloody-minded, thwarted kid. Its appeal is so narrow that it's hard to claim it's one of those movies that makes the world a worse place. (Consuming swill doesn't make you a pig.) Maybe it earns some virtue from the confessional self-loathing demonstrated in the presskit, where Deadpool is described openly as a "Moderately priced, three-quadrant, February opening tentpole."

Director Tim Miller's frankness about how much this superhero farrago is what it is, is visible even in the titles which literally claim "Starring Some Douchebag Produced by Asshats." How can you not applaud such truth in advertising? Yet how exactly would they characterize their audience?

R; 108 Mins.

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