‘Deadpool’ (2016) review: A mercenary with(out) a heart of gold

‘Deadpool’ runs wild with the jokes … and murder … and sex … and everything

Don’t be fooled: This is not your typical comic book superhero movie. Instead of honorable heroes trying to save the world from a nefarious British villain, we get a mercenary with a soft spot for prostitutes and murderous mayhem and a vendetta against … well, a nefarious British villain. Some things never change.

Anyways. When you strip it down to its core, “Deadpool” isn’t a superhero movie. It’s a tale of hyper-violent vengeance bathed in spilled blood, self-referential humor and amoral tendencies, all while masquerading as a superhero flick. Its requisite love story arc is outrageous, bordering on sacrilege. Our antihero even breaks the fourth wall, revealing his innermost deviations to the audience with a soulless stare.

But that’s all forgivable for two distinct reasons: First, that’s the whole point behind Deadpool’s character. He’s obnoxious and self-centered, using his abilities to further his own goals rather than helping those around him. Second, “Deadpool” is down-and-out funny. You may hate yourself for laughing, but that’s not going to stop you from doing so. From its clever industry-poking cinematic intro to its “in your face” post-credit sequence (yes, there is one), the film’s mostly on-point — and mostly puerile — jokes never stop.

Let’s get right down to it: “Deadpool’s” plot structure is one you’ve seen a million times — just with the worst, possibly villainous antihero you’ve seen leap from the pages of a comic book. In a sentence, it’s boy (Ryan Reynolds, who also played the Deadpool character in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) meets girl, they fall in love, something happens to boy that makes him leave the girl, girl gets in trouble, boy has to fight all the bad guys to save the day. But, maybe because of its formulaic construct, the rest of the film was able to shine through.

Because look, no one expects (or even wants) “Deadpool” to become the epic love story of our time. This is not “Titanic,” though just as many people may have died. First-time director Tim Miller runs wild with the basic premise behind this outrageous character: his unadulterated ability to simply be a psychopath. And before you say it, the character was always like this, even before he found himself a mortal enemy who nearly killed him. Before he was Deadpool, he was Wade Wilson, a former special-ops soldier who now runs around striking fear into the heart of lesser criminals. After meeting the love of his live in a bar that runs a betting pool on who’s going to die first (after which follows more sex scenes than any superhero movie before it), Wilson goes and gets terminal cancer. But wait: A shady organization slithers out from the shadows to offer him a way out: undergo a risky procedure to uncover any latent mutant ability and possibly cure the cancer that slowly killing him. Of course, there’s a catch (unbeknownst to Wilson at the time): If he does survive the testing, which basically involves putting the body under so much torturous stress that the procedure forces genetic change, he’ll become a super-slave, sold to the highest bidder.

Well, everything hits the fan, and the handsome face (and body) of Ryan Reynolds morphs into nightmare fuel. But Wilson does gain incredible regenerative abilities, which in fact does cure his cancer — and basically any other wound he may suffer, such as an amputated hand. Give a little, take a little, if you will. Well, Wilson, who goes by Deadpool now, is none too happy about this. Being tortured for however long AND looking like Freddy Krueger on a bad day? That’s simply too much for the caustic mercenary. So, while not returning to his love, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), because he’s ashamed of his looks, he set off to claim vengeance on those who subjected him to such pain (characters played by Ed Skrein, his British nemesis, and Gina Carano, his surprisingly strong minion).

As stated, pretty typical fare here.

But the plot isn’t the point here: It’s the script and how Deadpool relates to the audience that matter. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick clearly have too much fun dropping obscenity-laced tirades, making inside X-Men jokes, breaking the fourth wall and even having a laugh at Reynolds’ disastrous turn as the Green Lantern in 2011. (“Please don’t make the super-suit green!” he laments early on.) The writers pull rifts from a multitude of movies, all with the intention that you’ll notice and laugh at how silly the whole enterprise is. For the most part, it works.

Yes, the film is incredibly violent, deserving of that R rating, and its humor mostly low-brow and slapstick (though it does get a lovely boost from Deadpool’s sidekick of sorts, T.J. Miller’s Weasel, and Leslie Uggams’ ill-tempered and blind Al). Even the traditional X-Men characters that have a part (Stefan Kapicic’s Colossus and Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead) take umbrage with Deadpool’s bloodlust. But you won’t mind. You’ll just be wondering how he’s going to exact his revenge. It also doesn’t hurt that the action is well-paced and viscerally gory, with the film filling its 108-minute run without ever stalling.

In the end, “Deadpool” shows that superheroes can indeed be funny, and that Ryan Reynolds deserves a second chance after “Green Lantern.” (Read that review here, if you dare.) It may not be as clever as it wants you to believe, and it doesn’t actually add much to the greater Marvel/X-Men universe. But if you’re wanting an adult-rated laugh while watching the “hero” eviscerate his way through the hordes of bad guys all while being bombarded with humorous self-referential satire, then “Deadpool” should be just the cure you need.

Four hyper-violent stars out of five.

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Ryan Reyonlds stars as the titular character in "Deadpool." (Photo credit: Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.)

Ryan Reyonlds stars as the titular character in “Deadpool.” (Photo credit: Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.)

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