Movie Review: Deadpool
By Ben Gruchow
February 18, 2016
I suppose this is what I’ve been waiting for. After a solid several years or so of complaining that comic-book movies and superhero movies have turned into bloated, ultra-reverent commercials for each other with only the barest vestiges paid toward a consequential and self-contained narrative, I now have a film I can point to that’s trim (108 minutes!), gleefully R-rated, vulgar and violent, and irreverent (about the only way this movie could be less reverent to the formal qualities of cinematic storytelling is if the characters all addressed each other by their real-world names, like the characters in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare).
Ryan Reynolds plays the title character in Deadpool, real name Wade Wilson, and he knows he plays the title character; Wade knows about the existence of Ryan Reynolds in the real world. His anti-hero occupies a world in tandem with the X-Men; when he’s about to be taken into custody to meet with Professor X, he asks for clarification: “Stewart or McAvoy?” Wilson is a mercenary diagnosed with cancer, told about a secretive government project that can cure him. What he finds instead is a secretive government project that promises to tease any latent mutant capabilities out of him, via a series of painful experiments. Deadpool imagines a truly horrific origin story: Wade Wilson ends up with full-body scarring thanks to his mutation, set on fire in an explosion, impaled on a length of metal pipe and left to die.
The tradeoff is that the mutation also makes him nigh-invincible: able to heal and regrow from grievous injury, immune to any form of cancer, and likely immortal. This raises the interesting question of why he stays horribly scarred; since the crux of his mutation is cellular healing ability on a level fast enough to outmaneuver cancer cells, as well as sophisticated enough to distinguish between flesh wounds and total limb loss, and account for those massive differences in composition and material, why aren’t they able to repair some fairly superficial skin damage?
This is perhaps because looking like Ryan Reynolds would negate the need for a full head mask, and would serve as one handicap too many in addition to the ability to regrow bones and muscle, possessing superhuman strength and agility, et cetera. I digress. Deadpool finds himself a costume (after a few false starts), and takes to the streets in order to track down and extract justice from the people who experimented on him, and various acts of violence and profanity take place on the way.
There are really only two action set pieces in the film, one on a freeway (you’ve seen it in most of the promotional material), and the other at the movie’s climax; the movie contains a few other skirmishes, but there’s a reason the trailers and promotional ads have been so fixated on that freeway sequence. Both sequences are well-staged and executed, although they also contain the biggest betrayal of the movie’s moderate $60 million budget (the isolated instances of digital effects are surprisingly bad - low-resolution, weightless, and indistinct against altogether more solid physical stunt work).