Ryan Reynolds has found his smirk again — and not a moment too soon.
Superhero send-up Deadpool restores and fully exploits the Canadian-born actor’s gift for smartass banter, something he’s seemed afraid to utilize in recent years as he’s struggled to prove himself as a deadly serious thespian.
The debacle of Green Lantern, a mirthless Marvel Comics saga that fit him like concrete Spandex, evidently flashed upon Reynolds the realization that he has nothing to lose and a lot to gain just by being himself.
That’s perfect for Tim Miller’s Deadpool, a rudely hilarious Marvel X-Men offshoot where Reynolds’ mighty mutant title character is anything but a conventional superdude, even before he acquires his extreme skills, red-hooded cosplay costume and scarred face and mind.
The sneering bad attitude was already there, in Deadpool’s previous human guise as Wade Wilson, a Special Forces soldier turned mercenary thug: “I’m just a bad guy who gets paid to f--- up worse guys,” he announces.
Serious love and terminal cancer knock this cock off his walk. He falls for comely call girl Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who returns the woo, but the big “C” arrives just after Cupid, and its arrows are fatal.
Wade becomes uncharacteristically sullen, despite the support of Vanessa and sardonic buck-ups from his bartender BFF Weasel (T.J. Miller). Only a miracle will save Wade, and in true Marvel fashion it arrives through an experimental weaponizing treatment from a dodgy doc named Ajax (Ed Skrein, doing his best Blighty baddie), who is aided by sullen strongwoman Angel Dust (Gina Carano).
The operation cures cancer and bestows infinite speed and strength but it’s a bust as a facial treatment. Wade emerges looking like 180 lbs. of bad meat, seeking to hide from Vanessa and planning revenge on Ajax.
His sarcastic wit remains intact, however, and in his new guise as the blank-eyed and sharpshooting Deadpool, he’s also taking aim at Marvel’s fat rump. The fourth wall is frequently broken and so are churchgoer standards — the film has a rare “R” rating stateside, 18A in Ontario — as the scarlet revenger sets out to radically up both the body and laugh count.
The cynical yuks begin with the opening credits — the producers are called “some asshats” — and continue throughout a film that makes merry about its tiny budget, which includes messing about with “C”-grade X-Men castoffs Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Much of the film looks as if it was shot on the same Vancouver backlot construction site, which it was.
Not that we should care about such details, because Deadpool certainly doesn’t. He’s just out for vengeance, some kinky thrills and a love to embrace his face. Such modest ambition is a tonic in a world lousy with superbores.
Who are we to deny the guy, especially on Valentine’s Day weekend?