Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Like many superheroes, Deadpool has a tragic backstory. Before he donned the tight suit, Wade Winston Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) was a sarcastic, low rent hitman (prone to wearing T-shirts with Bea Arthur on them), brutally effective but with a heart for the little guy, the underdog. That heart burns megawatts when he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), an escort in whom he finds a similar sense of humor and general irreverent outlook on life. Then Wade is diagnosed with cancer. Should he take that mysterious guy's offer for unorthodox treatment?
He does, and while the cancer is eradicated, he is disfigured from head to toe in the process. It is during this ordeal that Wade will meet his new nemesis, Francis (Ed Skrein), the Brit villain the clever opening credits of DEADPOOL foretell. The movie jumps around in sequence as Wade (as Deadpool) recounts what lead him to a freeway massacre in which he apprehends, and loses, Francis. Meanwhile, X-Men Colossus - an earnest, platitude spouting Russian mutant who (at least in this movie) maintains a metallic body, and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a "moody teen" who can turn into a ball of flame (after she finishes tweeting on her smartphone), repeatedly try to recruit Deadpool for their team.
DEADPOOL's plot is strictly by-the-numbers, a plug 'n play that is as familiar as any revenge drama. The movie knows this. Director Tim Miller has not fashioned a post modern anti-narrative, quite the opposite. By employing a typically straight ahead drama, the movie gets to riff on the religiously clutched mythos and structure of the comic book adaptation by creating the cinematic equivalent of a sacred cow being blasted by graffiti. Holding that can is Reynolds, in a wildly entertaining and hilarious performance. He may take his cues from Jim Carrey and even Don Rickles but has created something entirely his. His ownership of this role is as dedicated as anything I've seen lately.
With Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's screenplay, Reynolds takes snark to higher heights and lower depths than we're used to seeing in a comic book re-imagining. And what you've heard is true: this is one raunchy flick. The gags range from light innuendo to um, balls-out gross. There are sexual jokes, pop culture jokes, physical pain jokes. While adolescent boys will be clamoring to see this film, it is wholly inappropriate for them. Which of course makes it some sort of holy grail. In my day, it was much harder to see such content. Now, some jackass is listing torrent links on Facebook.
Inevitably, those who hold Marvel and D.C. legends dearly will decry DEADPOOL. They'll count the swear words and lament how the culture continues to head southward. But no matter what your taste and convictions, you have to find some objectivity and acknowledge that they really got this one right. Set out to strip the superhero saga of its insufferable piety and self-seriousness and laugh at itself. Hopefully those who hold their noses can do the same. As Mel Brooks used to say, sometimes you have to "rise below vulgarity."