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Awesome: 15.38%
Worth A Look41.03%
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4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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by Brett Gallman

"It's not like any other superhero movie--until it is."
3 stars

Had “Deadpool” been released ten years ago, this review would likely have been an unqualified rave.

At that time, I would have fallen somewhere in its target audience of teen-to-twentysomething dudes who needed nothing more than to have his comic book obsession validated by ultraviolence, sex, and swearing. “But mom, they’re called graphic novels,” I might have said, oblivious to how silly that sounded. A decade later, “Deadpool” arrives with that same petulant whine, only I now can see how silly it all is. And, to be fair, the film itself does as well, which is why it has my begrudging, qualified respect—even if I find it hard to rave about something that has all the wit of a teenager doing R-rated MST3K-style riffs on comic book movies.

But for about thirty minutes or so, “Deadpool” is legitimately refreshing in its aim to upend genre conventions, or at least paint over them with gore, boobs, and juvenile humor. While only about half of the latter ever sticks, there are some cheap thrills to be mined from watching Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) –the Marvel Universe’s “merc-with-a-mouth”—gleefully, violently dispatch a group of thugs. Heads are separated from their bodies, and bullets fly through skulls with an almost balletic grace during the clever opening sequence, where Deadpool winks through the fourth wall to announce that this won’t be your typical superhero movie. Most superheroes don’t turn their enemies into a “fucking kabob,” after all.

It makes for a nice mission statement, to be sure, and the opening salvo is wildly convincing: there really hasn’t been a superhero movie quite like this, particularly in the post-Marvel Studios landscape (only “Punisher: War Zone” even comes close, though that is hardly any kind of kin to a four-color property like Deadpool). The opening scene of “Scream” is perhaps comparable in its surprising takedown of genre expectations, though that film benefitted from a sense of surprise that “Deadpool” can’t, especially since the opener here actually debuted online two years as part of a pitch reel, an already storied part of this film’s lore. Given the meta nature of “Deadpool,” it seems fitting that even the film itself has something of an origin story.

Eventually, however, the high wears off somewhere around the time Deadpool starts to bring the audience up to speed with a series of flashbacks. As it turns out, he wasn’t always a superhuman killing machine; rather, Wade Wilson is just sort of an asshole, a former special ops soldier who somehow becomes a merc-with-a-heart-of-gold. Instead of killing people for money, he only takes more honorable odd jobs, like beating the shit out of unsuspecting pizza delivery boys who stalk girls. When he meets his soulmate Vanessa (Morena Baccarin)—a hooker-with-a-heart-of gold, naturally—life is pretty good, at least until Wade meets a bigger asshole in the form of late-stage, terminal cancer.

His only hope is to undergo an experimental treatment that will unlock his mutant genes; unbeknownst to him, the procedure is part of a program designed to create slave super soldiers, and the process involves prolonged torture at the hands of Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein), a mad scientist filling out the generic, white British villain quotient. While the opening credits have some fun with the fill-in-the-blanks nature of the plot, I’m not so sure the rest of the film skewers itself enough, as it lapses into a fairly standard revenge tale, albeit with the occasional smart-ass annotations from Deadpool himself. Once the film establishes its split structure, which alternates between the culmination of Wilson’s revenge quest and the flashbacks informing it, the latter becomes something of a drag.

If the frenetic, blood-and-sex-and-guts action sequences are like a high-speed joyride with your buddy, then the flashbacks are pit-stop bummer sessions where you listen to your friend cry into his Big Gulp about his girl. “Deadpool” postures an awful lot with its glib, self-aware front, yet, like the most postured of teenage boys, it succumbs to a self-seriousness that just looks silly. How seriously can I take you when you’re also cracking dumb jokes and tittering about boobs all the time?

To its credit, “Deadpool” seems to be vaguely aware of this, which perhaps explains why the serious stuff is kept to a relative minimum. What it doesn’t seem to be at all aware of is its tendency to slip right into the genre it’s supposedly undermining. As the film wears on, it becomes an increasingly generic exercise in superhero filmmaking, right down to the extended X-Universe cameos from Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). These two show up apropos of nothing, vaguely guided by the thin pretense of luring Deadpool to the side of nobility by joining the X-Men, the long setup to an obvious punchline at the film’s climax. Their presence during the film’s final standoff only reinforces that “Deadpool” is more or less up to the same thing as most comic book movies, as it culminates with heroes wading through a sea of (mostly) faceless henchmen (near a helicarrier that comes crashing to the ground, no less).

Admittedly, even this familiarity isn’t without its moments: Tim Miller stages the action rather spectacularly, and even taps into something most of the proper X-Men films have missed out on by having the three heroes genuinely team-up with their combined powers. A couple of humorous gags—like Deadpool spelling out his nemesis’s name with dead bodies—also spruce up the proceedings just enough to separate itself from other, more conventional superhero offerings.

What these embellishments don’t do is give the impression that “Deadpool” has completely skewered the comic book movie in any meaningful way. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not sure you can completely call the film old hat or anything, but you could reasonably say that it’s an old hat that’s been scrawled upon with magic markers. To continue the comparison to “Scream,” it, too, falls prey to the clichés it’s been ribbing, but it doesn’t exactly do so with the same grace as Wes Craven’s seminal film. Where that film was a “this is how it’s done” kick-in-the-pants to a tired genre, “Deadpool” is a playful nudge that capitulates without adding much to the conversation besides a bunch of dick jokes.

Far be it from me to really shun it for that, of course. Maybe “Deadpool” doesn’t have the same affect that it would a decade ago, but I can still appreciate a good dirty joke (or two-dozen, in this case). They don’t all land in “Deadpool,” but you appreciate Reynold’s infectious attempt to just fucking go for it here. Like a gambler playing with house money, Reynolds never seems to forget that Fox finally indulged his decade-old passion project, and his gusto keeps the film afloat. His jokes and one-liners furiously spew with the reckless abandon of someone who thinks this might be his only shot at this. There’s an appreciable urgency that sweeps you away, even when all (or maybe even most) of the jokes don’t land. Watching Reynolds bounce vulgar, improvised riffs off of T.J. Miller is the sort of unexpected pleasure not found in most super hero movies, and the film really sings here.

That Reynolds’s comedic talents make him a fine fit for Wade Wilson is hardly surprising; however, his perpetually conscience-ridden face (not to mention an inner-sweetness he can never seem to shake in any role) tethers the film in just enough sincerity. “Deadpool” faces a tricky proposition in its ironic, too-cool-for-school posturing: pushing it too far might come off as abrasive (if not insufferable), but Reynolds constantly toes the line between pure sociopath and well-meaning psychopath rather delicately. This is not the easiest character to translate to the screen: Wade Wilson gives a fuck about nothing and everything all at once, and it’s a testament to Reynolds that you can believe in a character talking out of both sides of his mouth. One minute, Deadpool is encouraging a cab-driver to kill a romantic rival; the next, he’s sincerely pining over his own kidnapped girlfriend.

Baccarin also deserves credit for bringing the film’s central relationship to life when the script affords her the opportunity, which unfortunately isn’t much once it sets its mind to sidelining her as a damsel in distress. Before that point, though, Wade and Vanessa’s courtship takes on the tenor of an especially warped screwball comedy, complete with rapid-fire, back-and-forth banter that sees the two trading inappropriate barbs about child molestation and gangbangs. It’s such a shame that “Deadpool” eventually has to strip away the effectiveness of this off-beat but quite genuine relationship in order to fulfill the duties of a stock revenge tale. Marketing can’t be held against a movie, but it’s kind of telling that Baccarin’s insistence about not being a damsel-in-distress from the trailers is missing in the final product.

For better and for worse, this is the title character’s movie; ultimately, even his X-companions function more like accessories than actual characters, existing mostly to play off of Deadpool’s devil-may-care attitude as his relatively straight-laced counterparts. You sense there’s perhaps some potential in a New Mutants spin-off lurking somewhere in here, but the film actually isn’t all that preoccupied with world-building for much of its running time (in fact, one of the film’s better winks is Deadpool’s comment that it’s almost like Fox couldn’t afford more X-Men). As such, this is a film that really thrives whenever it’s appealing to that reptilian—if not juvenile—part of the brain that raves rambunctious, violent action montages and amusing sex sequences.

Whenever the film spins its wheels doing just about anything besides this, it succumbs to one of the more obvious superhero clichés: a tedious origin story you wish would fall by the wayside so the fun can really begin. Maybe that will happen in the sequel, which is obviously teased with a post-credits sequence here, even after the film almost dares to leave its audience hanging with no tease at all—which truly would have been the Deadpool way, of course.

But since this is a quote-unquote subversive film that exists mostly to pander, it eventually gives in and reassures you that Deadpool is more or less a product of the same sausage factory as its contemporaries. It’s here you realize you’ve been watching a kid draw a bunch of dicks in the margins of his textbook when you wish he’d just rip out the pages.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29836&reviewer=429
originally posted: 02/14/16 01:12:32
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User Comments

4/01/17 Mark Louis Baumgart Could have gone very wrong on so many levels, but it didn't. Yay! 5 stars
2/12/17 morris campbell clever and fun adults only superhero movie 4 stars
10/03/16 Luisa Funny, entertaining (dont like torture scenes) but this movie rocks. TJ Miller hilarious! 4 stars
8/05/16 chad cowgill Takes comic book movies to a whole new level! 5 stars
6/01/16 Chelsie Different taste with some clever humor, but too centered around raunchy humor as well. 3 stars
5/19/16 Jason Lots of easter eggs within the movie! 5 stars
5/14/16 David It´s awesome!!! 5 stars
5/13/16 Chelsie Different taste with some clever humor, but too centered around raunchy humor as well. 4 stars
5/07/16 Andra Birzu I really enjoyed the humor and I was laughing almost the entire movie. 4 stars
4/29/16 Meep Well made but ultimately boring and tedious, same old same old 2 stars
3/06/16 Koitus The bad guys survives - TWICE - being run through with a sword?!? :-( 2 stars
3/02/16 Charles Tatum I knew Reynolds had it in him; too violent but still funny 5 stars
2/18/16 Joseph Woosley It was solid, but the snarkyness grew old and couldn't settle into an action to snark ratio 3 stars
2/16/16 FireWithFire More odious fag-enabling by the queers who run Hollywood. 1 stars
2/15/16 KingNeutron Theater audience laughed quite a bit and we all appreciated it. They nailed it 5 stars
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