11 Feb 2016

Screen Time: DEADPOOL

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J.Miller, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggams, Briana Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, Greg LaSalle
Director: Tim Miller
Runtime: 108 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK) / R (US)
Release Date: 10th February 2016 (UK) / 12th February 2016 (US)

Stewart R: "Deadpool? As a movie?! No, that'd be too crazy! Impossible to write and then direct! It'd have to be an R rating, where's the bankability? Who'd even want to see that??"- some Hollywood execs somewhere, circa 2004

"Deadpool? As a movie? After good money was put into Wolverine: Origins and we got that mush in return? How'd you even go about undoing that Wade Wilson nonsense?!" - some Comic book movie fan somewhere, circa 2009

"Deadpool? As a movie? Yeah, it works pretty damn well! Will likely be a big hit!" - Stewart R, PCG headquarters, circa February 2016

The development cycle for this Deadpool movie has been surrounded by doubt - from outside parties and the studios themselves - for years, with big question marks hanging around whether production would ever start, let alone for it to be a success at the box office and with reviewers. It opens in cinemas around the world this week thanks to the dedication of the production team to deliver a worthy final product and, to be frank, the pure enthusiasm of Ryan Reynolds to play Wade Wilson and make a solo film a reality.
And what a reality it is. Deadpool, in the Marvel comic book universe, has been a self-aware, comedic, fourth wall-breaking and murderous presence for a couple of decades and as soon as the title sequence - a glorious cinematic spin around a frozen tableau of action carnage yet to come - starts to roll, you instantly recognise that this is just what you're going to get through the 108 minutes ahead. It's a rare thing these days to come away from a title sequence with your cheeks already warming from the smile on your face and the rumble of audience chuckles in your ears, but it'll happen when you watch Deadpool.

From there, director Tim Miller has Wade's story jump back and forth between the then and the now as we follow him through a crazy, high speed chase and shootout in the present with narrated segues and pauses occasionally returning us to his past and the path that led him to be the mutant 'Merc with a Mouth'. The refreshing part of this entire origin story is that Reynold's Wade is just as strange, twisted and importantly, likable before he dons the red suit as he is after his transformation. His crazy life as a special forces dishonorable discharge sees him taking humiliation justice missions for those with the cash and hanging out in a clubhouse bar filled with other mercs who all generally get on, but have a betting pool going over who might die first.
It's here where Wade meets the plucky, sensual and slightly unhinged Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and the two engage in a strange, brisk courtship that solidifies their unique level of shared weirdness and transitions into an amusingly risque montage of them 'celebrating' various holidays and anniversaries together as they fall in love through lust. The chemistry between the two is captivating and it truly helps this comic book comedy hit a surprisingly emotional note once tragedy strikes and grim, real-world pessimism and relationship analysis drops by for a brief visit.

Before long we end up in familiar, and - in these knowing post X-Men/Wolverine movie days - cliched secret project territory, but Wade's never ending humour and mocking carries us through scenes of experimentation/torture that introduce us to the true antagonist of the piece, Ed Skrein's Ajax. There's no denying it, the use of a British actor as the villain elicits an early laugh from the audience, but Skrein's overall performance wobbles between wooden and smarmy and never threatens to raise Ajax out of the category of throwaway counter to Reynold's engaging Deadpool. Gina Carano, the former UFC champion continuously on the trying path of 'breaking into Hollywood' fails to be anything more than a glaring, pouting sidekick presence in her role as Angel Dust, there to necessitate the inclusion of other mutants in the story and at this juncture one can't help but compare her character to Juggernaut in X-Men: Last Stand, and likewise her acting career to that of Vinnie Jones...
BUT, with Angel Dust involved, screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are given chance to bring one familiar X-Man and a newbie to the fold to level the playing field. This allows for a glut of glorious fun-poking, f-bomb dropping and limb-breaking comedy to reign during the middle act that had tears rolling from this reviewers eyes during one clash of ideals...and extremities. It's the inclusion of the X-Men that, yes, ties Deadpool into 20th Century Fox's big, corporate money-spinning wagon, but refreshingly allows those aforementioned fourth wall breaks to needle at everything from casting to budget decisions to the relative failures, or points of ire in previous films. Briana Hildebrand's brilliantly monikered Negasonic Teenage Warhead (a Grant Morrison creation from 2001) is a brooding late-adolescent who quite possibly represents a large portion of this film's audience, and in her interactions with Deadpool the screenwriters even get to have fun throwing around various generation-targeted pop culture jokes that could have some guffawing and others reaching for Wikipedia, IMDB or YouTube in their confusion at missing the gag. 

To the creative team's credit, there's barely a gag, joke, insult, pun or lewd mental image that doesn't hit the intended mark to some degree as they plunge through the comedy handbook. Plus it features one of the greatest cameos in the history of comic book movies. There's little in the way of repetition throughout and, if anything, come the action heavy final act you may even be wishing that there are more laughs to be found. The final set piece holds the attention well enough (and is impressive considering the rumoured $50m budget) but feels generic in its conception. It plays out as a predictable punch-up, the flaws in the Ajax casting and scripting coming through once again and it does come across as something of a studio pacifier; allowing the execs to feel as if the majority of the comic book movie boxes have been ticked after they've signed off on an unconventional and risky project.
And Deadpool is unconventional and it is risky, but these are the elements that allow it to be the great and hilarious cinematic experience that it is. It's crude, brash, bloody and violent and it's incredibly unapologetic about the fact. If anything this'll make you warm to it even more. Reynolds is the master at serious, deadpan delivery that you 'know' is meant to be taken as an insult - it's arguably why he got the Wolverine: Origins gig in the first place - but here he gets to go frantic and crazy with it too. When he drops the mask once or twice to show some actual acting chops when the odd spot of drama rolls in for Wade Wilson to deal with it adds another dimension to an already enthralling movie.

In these dark Winter months it's great to have an unabashedly NSFW laughter-fest to lift the spirits, put a spring in your step and there's no doubt in my mind that Deadpool now holds the title as the funniest comic book movie made yet. And you'll likely never look at unicorns in quite the same way again. 8/10

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