All right, folks…I, like so many of YOU by now…have drank the Kool-Aid that is ‘Deadpool’. Sure, it’s about a week late…but who cares…I’ve now had what is now being considered the most profitable R-Rated opening EVER seared into my puny little mind…and I loved it! Now I will admit, prior to the abysmal first cinematic incarnation of this now-beloved character, in the unfortunate shit-show that was 2009’s ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, I was not wise to ‘Deadpool’, AKA ‘The Merc with the Mouth’. Sure, I’d heard the name referenced a few times during a few hazy ‘geek-out’ sessions with friends, but being that my hardcore Comic-book Nerd Days ended about, oh…I don’t know…18 or so years ago, I’ve been a little out of touch. It was when the ‘Deadpool’ fanboys nerd-raged about the portrayal of lippy mercenary ‘Wade Wilson’, as played by fellow Vancouver-born homeboy Ryan Reynolds’ (‘Safe House’), that this unique Marvel character entered my realm of existence. Now everyone agreed that Reynolds was an inspired and pretty much perfect choice for the pre-Deadpool version of ‘Wade Wilson’, but it was when he underwent his superhero change that 20th Century Fox REALLY shit the bed. So the geeks angrily brandished the torches and pitchforks, and the Internet did what the Internet does, and Fox killed the idea of further versions of THAT character. I found the digital anger amusing, largely because I was unfamiliar with how ‘Deadpool’, comic-book ‘Deadpool’, was SUPPOSED to be. Looking back, now knowing what makes the quirky character ‘tick’, I can see why the fans would be up in arms to such a degree. You’d have to wonder if ANYONE at Fox had EVER picked up a ‘Deadpool’ comic, prior to launching THAT lame-ass incarnation. Fast forward to August 2014…and this curious little 3 minute short film drops into the InterWebz, once again featuring Ryan Reynolds, but this time sticking to the characteristic violence, self-referential meta-humor and crazy action that properly defines the character in the eyes of the fans. Oh, and they got the costume right. I was instantly intrigued. That 3 minutes managed to pack in everything needed to show what ‘Deadpool’ COULD be, in the right hands…and if Fox had the balls to give it another shot. Suddenly…I ‘got’ it. I saw why people loved this Marvel Comics anti-hero. And once again…the World Wide Web did it’s thing…and once again, 20th Century Fox wisely listened. Ponying up a modest $58 million, they handed the reins to first-time feature director Tim Miller, the writers of the ‘leaked’ test footage, and Reynolds…and stood back and watched. I’ll bet they’re glad they did too…because this movie is blowing up the box office and setting all kinds of new records and shit! That level of abrupt success, with an edgy, deservedly R-rated and openly subversive action flick, will almost undoubtedly have a ripple effect in how comic book adaptations are now formulated at the film studios. With the notable exceptions of ‘Blade’ (1998),’Sin City’ (2005), ‘300’ (2006), ‘Watchmen’ (2009) and ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010), (I know there’s others too…but not too recently), the larger film houses have clearly been gun-shy about pushing beyond the PG-13 rating, in an obvious bid for MORE money. The more peeps that can get in…the more cash in the studio’s pocket. On a business level, this does make sense…on an entertainment level, it can make things a little…stale. As an adult (physically anyway), I do wish for more ‘adult’ entertainment (not porn, ya perverts!…or, at least, not JUST porn). Sometimes edgier fare is just…better, more satisfying, and if that can be applied to some of the kickass comic book / graphic novel titles and characters out there today, all the better.
THIS flick is a glowing example of that idea working…and not just critically. Fox must just be wetting themselves from the mad bank ‘Deadpool’ is pulling in, and they can’t be so stupid as to not see the R-Rated Doors of Opportunity it’s opening for them. In the end, though, it does boil down to this: After all that, is ‘Deadpool’ a good movie? Yes…yes ,it is. Maybe not ‘good’ in the morally-upstanding sense, but definitely ‘good’ in the ” Holy shit, now THAT was an entertaining movie!!” sense.
To those who don’t yet know, ‘Deadpool’ centers on the violent and often hilarious, revenge-fueled misadventures of crass Ex-Special Forces mercenary ‘Wade Wilson’ (Ryan Reynolds) as he discovers love, and then terminal cancer, in his life. After becoming disillusioned about living as a pre-cancer ‘thug-for-hire’, he comes across the gorgeous ‘Vanessa’ (Morena Baccarin); a sexy strip-club waitress / prostitute who catches ‘Wade’s pervy eye. In a hilariously raunchy montage of largely boundary-pushing sex scenes, we see the unlikely, yet totally likely couple of ‘Wade’ and ‘Vanessa’ form…and it’s actually pretty adorable…in a delightfully ‘Restricted’ kinda way. Right around the time that ‘Wade’ is ready to take things to the Next Step…cancer shows it’s nefarious self, in his brain, lungs, liver and prostate (yeah, he’s pretty much fucked). While struggling to come to terms with the shit hand that Life has suddenly dealt him, ‘Wade’ finds himself contacted by a shadowy organization who claim they can cure him and endow him with superhuman powers. With little to no choice, he reaches out to these questionable people for help. This proves to be a serious mistake, as the true reason for this groups existence is the creation of super powered slaves that can be sold to the highest bidder. After much torture and anguish, ‘Wade’, now damaged beyond repair by the ‘science’, escapes their clutches and vanishes into the sordid underbelly of the unnamed city. It’s there that he amasses a small collection of weird allies, such as his sarcastic bartender buddy ‘Weasel’ (TJ Miller), an elderly black blind woman named ‘Blind Al’ (Leslie Uggams), and two lesser known (and thereby cheaper) X-Men, ‘Colossus’ ( Stephan Kapicic) and the oddly-named-yet-strangely badass ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ (Brianna Hildebraand). ‘Wade’ puts this wacky cast of characters to use to combat the demented scientist/mutant ‘Ajax’ (Ed Skrein), who tortured and changed him, as well as ‘Ajax’s frightening female bodyguard ‘Angel Dust’ (Gina Carano)…plus a whole slew of faceless goons who are there to gorily take ‘Deadpool’s wise-cracking wrath.
It’s pretty obvious, right from the awesomely self-aware Opening Credits, that director Miller and Co. knew what audiences wanted from this movie…and knew how to deliver it. While not all the jokes hit home, enough of them stuck so that I can honestly say that I was smiling and enjoying myself for 85-90 % of this flick’s 108 minute run-time. One of the key factors that makes ‘Deadpool’ such an amusing character is his tendency to break The Fourth Wall, meaning at times he’ll stop and address us, the audience, directly. Not only that, but he’ll refer to the movie that he’s the subject of as being exactly that…a movie, and with that comes all sorts of self-referential, self-deprecating and self-aware jokes and gags. This aspect was definitely embraced warmly and it was handled damn near perfectly, adding a crude charm to the flick. Speaking of ‘charm’, I have to admit that the love story at the heart of this movie worked for me too…in it’s own weird, perverse kind of way. There was enough heft to it for me to believe ‘Wade’s thirst for revenge, especially when ‘Vanessa’ inevitably finds herself caught in the middle of ‘Wade’s mission. That…and I think Morena Baccarin is drop-dead gorgeous…a sentiment that hasn’t changed since I first saw her in ‘Firefly’.
Some reviewers out there have bitched that this action movie didn’t have enough action scenes…and to that I have to ask: What goddamn movie did YOU go see?! I found the level of action perfectly acceptable. Sure, I suppose that there is really just 2 major action sequences but, given the back-and-forth flashback nature of the narrative, one of them (the highway gunfight used in the test footage) gets nicely spread out through the First Act. The last one, interestingly filmed right next to the Pattullo Bridge that connects The City of Surrey to The City of New Westminster here in British Columbia (which I use every day to get to work), was a strange mix of Big Scale Action (on a budget), and lean pacing with a more personal end game for our hero…and it worked. There’s no armies of invading aliens or dastardly doomsday plots to foil. It was essentially a man-to-man story of revenge, at the end of the day. Going back to the final battle in the 3rd Act, it was well done and given how well I know the area where it was shot, it was cool to see how it was digitally tinkered with to give it its own sense of self. All the action is shot and edited well, with some hits and gunshot wounds coming fast and hard enough that I found myself wincing at times. There’s an effective kineticism to the sequences that got the blood going, and this was often punctuated by amusing snippets of random humor between gunshots, sword-swings and spraying body fluids.
If I had to drag a complaint out of the mud for this one, the thing that does come to mind stems from the breaking of the Fourth Wall. Don’t get me wrong…I loved it and often found it laugh (or chuckle)-out-loud funny, but the reason for it, being ‘Wade’s deep insanity, didn’t exactly mesh. When he’s just ‘Wade’, he seems like a pretty even-keeled, yet mischievous dude, despite holding a 40-something person body-count. Even after his life and body-changing ordeal, he still doesn’t seem SO crazy that in the world the story takes place, he’d go bark-at-the-moon nuts and start talking to peeps (us) who aren’t there. I know that this lunacy is ‘part n parcel’ with the character, but I think that in the case of this adaptation, they were just assuming that most of their core audience would already get and accept that that’s how ‘Wade’ is when he puts on the mask and becomes ‘Deadpool’.
All in all, I’d say Fox made a good bet when they opted to take their chances on this group of writers and film-makers. I didn’t go in expecting this flick to change my life, but I did have a damn good time with it and can definitely see this title joining the ranks of my Blu Ray collection someday. It’s a crude, juvenile and funny flick, loaded with clever meta-humor, strong bloody violence (often played for laughs), effective characters and, strangely, a bit of ‘heart’. It’s a terrific reintroduction to this previously used, abused and misunderstood character, and I’m very curious to see what they come up with for the inevitable sequel. I hope they keep things scaled back, as the ‘smaller’ story (largely budget-dictated) worked in the movie’s favor and helped give it the charm that comes from a movie where some creativity is forced due to a lack of gratuitous resources. It’s not so much that they lacked resources, it’s that they used all they had, to its full potential…and it’s now paying off nicely for all of them. To fans of comic book adaptations..I can EASILY recommend this movie. To everyone else, I can also recommend it, as it’s a superhero flick that I can pretty much guarantee you haven’t seen. Just be aware that it’s definitely rated ‘R’…and for damn good reason. If you like your humor raunchy, juvenile and quick, with your action fast and your violence bloody…then this is a flick for YOU!!!
* I REALLY wanted to finish this off with a ‘Deadpool’ quote…but there’s just too many hilarious ones to choose from. JUST GO SEE THE DAMN MOVIE!