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Film review: Deadpool has deceptively sharp wit and keen eye for absurdity

Courtesy of the Deadpool Twitter page @deadpoolmovie Courtesy of the Deadpool Twitter page @deadpoolmovie

phillips on film

Deadpool
15
****

This is a world that currently has no shortage of superhero films.

And while that isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, it is getting a bit wearing. For every Avengers Assemble (great), there is a Fantastic Four (not so great). For every Iron Man (very good), there is an Iron Man 2 (very bad), and so on, and so on.

In fact, superheroes seem to be Hollywood’s bread and butter at the moment, and with lots more scheduled over the next few years it’s a diet that threatens to get stale.

And that seems to be where the surprise box office success of Deadpool comes in. He’s super powered, but not quite a hero – rather a violent, wisecracking, potty mouthed alternative to the usual costumed do-gooder.

This is an action comedy aiming for an older audience but one that looks pretty juvenile (certainly in the unconvincing trailers). It’s a dream film for 13-year-old boys, basically.

And while 13-year-old boys everywhere will no doubt love it (though be warned, it earns its 15 certificate with a heady brew of sex, violence and swearing), its appeal deserves to run wider. It is, shock horror, that rare thing – an action comedy that actually delivers a steady flow of laughs.

Ryan Reynolds previously played a version of Deadpool in the startlingly bad X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and here he has another stab at bringing him to life (mercifully forgetting that film existed, save to ridicule it). A cult favourite, Deadpool exists in a peculiar corner of the X-Men universe of comics – the hideously scarred, irreverent mercenary has a fondness for ‘breaking the fourth wall’ by addressing the reader directly – a habit embraced by the movie.

Deadpool begins in full-on action mode, introducing us to him with an inventive freeway shootout. We flash back and forth between this carnage and his origin tale, as we see gun for hire Wade Wilson find true love with prostitute Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, sparkily overcoming that particular cliché). All well and good, until he learns he’s riddled with terminal cancer.

Conveniently, Wade is then approached by shadowy types who promise to cure him by turning him into a supersoldier. Cure him they do, but not before relentlessly torturing him, scarring him and trying to enslave him – hence the roaring rampage of revenge that ensues.

The thin plot doesn’t sound terribly funny, but Deadpool has a near-supersonic gag rate, which starts in the opening credits and doesn’t let up until the cinema lights go up. The jokes don’t all hit target, but there are more than enough to keep the audience chuckling, and several are very funny indeed.

Reynolds, a charismatic actor, has been poorly served by most of his leading roles, but Wade is a natural fit for him and he wisecracks through the film with gusto. The self-conscious ‘fourth wall breaking’ should get annoying, but it is done with such fun that it’s hard not to be swept along. He takes pot shots at everything – other superhero films, the low budget of his own movie and even Ikea furniture.

There are some nice moments as he bickers with X-Men Colossus and the rather tremendously named Nagasonic Teenage Warhead, quipping that they were the only two members of the team this film could afford. Not everyone will be won over by the character– like all motormouths, he threatens to get annoying, so you may actually be willing the baddies’ to kill him at times.

But when so many superhero films seem to prize moody intensity above all else (the curiously joyless Man of Steel, we’re looking at you), Deadpool has a less pretentious agenda – simple entertainment. It isn’t always big or clever, but it certainly is funny, and in amongst the lowbrow gags there is a deceptively sharp wit and keen eye for absurdity. And oddly, it is easy to buy into these likeable oddball characters who, against the odds, manage to inject this film with a bit of heart.

It isn’t all good news – Ed Skrein’s Ajax makes for a bland and forgettable Brit baddie, while Gina Carano, as his sidekick Angel Dust, has little to do but look stroppy and hit things. And it is important to note that Deadpool isn’t for everyone. It is all very violent and sweary, and often childish.

But as a guilty pleasure this makes a welcome break from the often over earnest super hero fare filling so many cinema screens these days. It’s fast, funny, action-packed, and, if you’re a fan of John Hughes’ 80s teen classics, it’s worth sitting through the end credits for a rather delightful homage to one of the best of them.

 

Check out other film reviews here.

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