Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, and the voice of Stefan Kapicic
Rated R for Strong Violence and Language Throughout, Sexual Content and Graphic Nudity
That "Deadpool" turned out to be one of the sleeper hits of last year doesn't surprise me. Obviously, that it comes from Marvel Studios is a big plus, since almost everything they put out turns into box office gold (much to my displeasure). It's irreverent and raunchy, which is another good sign. And it was one of the best marketed movies of the year. But more importantly, it knows exactly what it is. There are no sacred cows and no rules that the film won't break. Suffice it to say, there's nothing quite like it.
Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is an ex-soldier turned muscle for hire. With a quick wit and a love of pop culture, he endears himself to the similarly sharp-tongued Vanessa (Baccarin). After a year of dating (which consists of romps around the apartment for just about any occasion), they decide to get married. But fate deals them a tragic blow: Wade has terminal metastatic cancer. In walks a guy who says that by turning him into a superhero of sorts, he can cure Wade of his cancer. Of course, it's not that simple, as the sadistic doctor named Ajax tells him. The process uses adrenaline to uncover mutations in a person's DNA, and they're activated by putting the body through extreme stress. So in addition to mercilessly torturing Wade, he disfigures him. Believing that Vanessa will no longer want anything to do with him, Wade decides to get even, and thus is born Deadpool, the "merc with a mouth," who can regenerate body tissue.
The true masterstroke of the film (I'm not counting the fourth-wall breaking, because apparently that's from the comics) is the pitch-perfect casting. Who else could play a likable smart-ass but Ryan Reynolds? As the loud, rude and intentionally obnoxious Deadpool, Reynolds finds a role that he was born to play. Reynolds doesn't have great range, but he hits this one right out of the park. As the villain Ajax, Ed Skrein turns up the nasty all the way to 11. One look at his smirk and you already want to deck the guy. That he has a sadistic delight in torturing Wade makes it so much easier to root for his comeuppance. Morena Baccarin is an odd choice for such a crazy movie, but it's the right one. She's lovely, and the chemistry between her and Reynolds is one of the highlights. Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapicic provide some of the funniest moments when they're trying to get Wade to join the X-Men. The only one who doesn't work is T.J. Miller. He does his stoner-bro schtick and it's really annoying. He doesn't fit in with the tone or the characters. Like Seth Rogen, he's playing himself as being a socially awkward stand-up comic.
The most surprising element of the film is the fourth-wall breaking. This is a risky move, because it can take the audience out of the film, but here it works. It works because it is consistent and knows when and when not to do it. Deadpool knows he's talking to a movie audience and is well aware of the other Marvel movies. In one very amusing touch, he knows that he's being played by Ryan Reynolds, and occasionally tells us that he thinks the actor is hot.
But while the irreverent humor and the romance work, there is one element that doesn't: the plot. The revenge story is paper thin, and first-time director Tim Miller pays too much attention to it. There's a wealth of good material here, but it comes in regular bursts, and the stuff between them is taken too seriously for a movie this silly.
So it's a tough call, but I can't recommend "Deadpool." Then again, everyone and their mother has seen it, so such a judgement is pointless. And really, I can't blame anyone for liking it.