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The profane perfection of Deadpool'

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Film offers crass, clever take on the superhero genre

Considering the current ubiquity of superhero movies, one might think that we're past the point where any of these films might be capable of surprising us. We've got the ongoing Marvel brightly-colored world-building and the DC dark-and-gritty take about to commence what else is there?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

'Deadpool' is the first R-rated mainstream property since comic book offerings became big business; there was actually some concern as to how a superhero movie would fare when aimed specifically at adults, leaving out the precious teenager demographic. Cautious optimism gave way to shock as the film set records for biggest February opening ever and biggest R-rated opening ever.

And with good reason, because this movie is a hell of a lot of fun.

Ryan Reynolds ('Self/less') is Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces operative who has become a mercenary possessed of let's just say questionable morals. He's got a girlfriend named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, 'Spy') who is almost as nuts as he is and a best friend named Weasel (T.J. Miller, TV's 'Silicon Valley') who runs the local mercenary bar.

Things are looking good for Wade until he is diagnosed with late-stage cancer. His illness leads to his recruitment by a shadowy underground laboratory; said lab claims that it will not only cure Wade's cancer, but also give him superhuman abilities. All of that is technically true, only it comes with the unexpected caveat that the treatments are handled by superpowered sociopaths Ajax (Ed Skrein, 'The Transporter Refueled') and Angel (Gina Carano, 'Heist').

The end result is that Wade winds up with superhuman strength, speed and reflexes, along with the ability to heal from literally any physical wound. However, he also is left horribly disfigured and mentally unbalanced. So, he starts wearing a mask and takes the name Deadpool; from there, he starts trying to track down the people who did this to him in the hopes that the damage can be undone.

Meanwhile, a pair of X-Men giant metal man Colossus (Stefan Kapicic, 'We Will Be the World Champions') and a petulant exploding young lady named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand, 'Prism') are trying to get Deadpool to join the team. As you might expect, Deadpool doesn't play particularly well with others. Ultimately, Deadpool is left to track down Ajax and his cohorts in hopes of making sure that he and those closest to him can remain safe.

A huge part of what has made the comic character of Deadpool so unique and engaging is the degree of awareness shown by the character. In essence, breaking the fourth wall is a key part of Deadpool's whole deal he is constantly addressing not only the audience, but the fact that he and everything around him is a fictional construct. Call it postmodern or meta or whatever you want, but the truth is that it opens the door for a very different take on the superhero movie.

Maybe the best part of this different take? This movie is funny. Like, REALLY funny. In fact, I'd call it the funniest big-budget superhero movie that we've seen (feel free to make your arguments for 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' but you'll be wrong that movie is funny, but nothing like this). It is clever and self-aware in a very overt way; there are references within references that work no matter how much you may or may not know about the character and the genre (though the more you know, the better it's going to be).

What 'Deadpool' does so brilliantly is embrace the outlier nature of the character and work it to the movie's advantage. That willingness to explore new possibilities results in a film that manages to send up and subvert the standard tropes of the superhero action movie genre while managing to remain a wildly entertaining example of that same genre. It's shockingly smart and incredibly funny and it clearly takes great delight in thumbing its nose at all things super including the face it sees in the mirror.

(Please note that this movie really earns its R-rating; it is jammed full of supercharged sex and violence. Everything about this movie is incredibly graphic. You've been warned.)

As a longtime Ryan Reynolds hater, it pains me to admit how perfect he is for this part. He brought Deadpool to life in a way that perhaps no other actor could have managed; even his own personal history with the character and superheroes in general became fodder. His always-on snarkiness clicked wonderfully with what Deadpool is. Who would have guessed that a quip-a-minute joyfully insane killer would be the part that Reynolds was born to play?

The supporting cast is pretty solid as well. Miller proves a nice counterpoint to Reynolds, while Hildebrand and Kapcic have some great moments. Skrein and Carano are fine; they feel a bit generic, but the truth is that the last thing anyone wants is focus drawn away from Deadpool. Special mention should be made of Leslie Uggams (TV's 'Nurse Jackie'); she plays Blind Al, Deadpool's elderly blind roommate. She is hilariously crass her interactions with Reynolds are among the film's highlights.

It's no secret that I'm a sucker for superheroes. However, the fact that there's room in the comic movie firmament for a movie like 'Deadpool' is truly exciting. It is crude and profane and brutal and hilarious and just a hell of a good time at the movies.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 17 February 2016 09:27

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