Fans of the cult Marvel comics character Deadpool can rejoice: their wise-assed, ultra violent, pseudo-gay, postmodern hero has made the successful transition to the big screen with the film Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds. Translating a character who routinely breaks the fourth wall to talk to his reader–or in this case, audience–and makes jokes about the plot, knowing it’s just the plot of a comic book comes as no small task. For his achievement, director Tim Miller, along with writers Paul Wernick and Rick Reese deserve applause.
On the other hand, the movie in which they’ve transplanted Deadpool isn’t a very good one. The story, such as it is, follows the sarcastic, smart ass Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a mercenary operating in a universe populated by mutant superheroes like the X-Men. Wilson falls head over heels for hooker Vanessa (Monica Baccarin), and the two begin a passionate love affair driven by kinky sex–a montage of their fornicating depicts them having sex with mashed potatoes, plastic vampire teeth and Baccarin penetrating Reynolds with a dildo. It’s that kind of movie.
Tragedy strikes when Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer. In a last ditch attempt to treat the disease, he turns to the villainous mutant Ajax (Ed Skrein) for an experimental cure that will grant Wade mutant powers, including a healing factor. What he doesn’t realize is that Ajax–real name, Francis–must torture Wade in order to get the treatment to work. It does, and Wade’s cancer vanishes, though at high cost–besides the torture, he’s scarred with horrible burns for life. Naturally, from there, the relationship between Wilson and Ajax sours. Wilson dons a head-to-toe jumpsuit and begins calling himself Deadpool as he seeks revenge.
And that’s it. For as well as the movie nails the Deadpool character, it seems to forget to find a compelling story to place him in. There are brief subplots about Deadpool shacking up with an elderly blind woman (played by–of all people–stage great Leslie Uggams) and several of the X-Men trying to get him to forsake his mercenary ways and recruit him for their team, but nothing really gels. The film does provide the requisite special effects action sequences, though they feel obligatory rather than organic, in particular a climactic fight aboard what looks like the helicarrier from the Avengers movies. Of course, because Fox produced Deadpool, it can’t be the Avengers headquarters; legal rights forbid it!
Still, Deadpool’s irreverent humor provides a lot of fun. Reynolds has made a career playing smart aleck characters, and Deadpool seems tailor made for his comic timing and delivery. Jokes about superheroes, Reynolds’ own career (especially the bomb Green Lantern), Hugh Jackman, the band Wham! and a few plot conventions generate some huge laughs, as do the opening and closing credits–arguably the wittiest humor in the whole film. Reynolds and Baccarin have a great chemistry together, and the latter, primarily known for her work in television, proves herself an appealing and charismatic actress. In a way, she has the most thankless role in the film, though also the most pivotal: she has to play the mourning girlfriend and the damsel in distress while relishing Wade’s caustic humor. Somehow, Baccarin makes us believe her love for Wade is genuine–a difficult task in a movie as berserk as this one.
The movie’s action sequences play like the most ultraviolent of cartoony action movie carnage–think Matthew Vaughn or Quentin Tarantino on cocaine. That will, no doubt, appeal to fans of the character Deadpool, but may turn off some casual moviegoers. The lack of a strong plot leaves little to redeem the film beyond Reynolds’ performance, though it is a very good one. Deadpool makes a refreshing and original character. He plays like a very horny child with a case of Tourette Syndrome that would make Kevin Smith blush, and his mercurial sexuality and odd fashion sense (at one point he sports a Bea Arthur tank top) always make him a joy to watch. Audience curiosity and the cult of Deadpool might make the film a hit, enough so to warrant a sequel. If it does, let’s hope next time they find a decent story for him to play in.