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Explicit complicity
To be honest, I thought I was Marvel Cinematic Universed out. Aside from utterly adoring Hayley Atwell and co. in TV’s Agent Carter, my enthusiasm for the super hero has waned… And then my son told me I must see Deadpool... OK, says Camus.
 
  "Well, every comic book movie I go to, nobody fucking dies! I mean, like, everybody's getting shot at, it's like an episode of The A-Team, y'know, everyone's shooting the ground so, we get an opportunity to do this in a way that follows all the scripture that Deadpool's laid out, which is fourth- wall breaking, that kind of mercenary sensibility and humour and then we also have this opportunity, which is very rare in this world, to do some- thing that's not necessarily for just kids."
Actor, Ryan Reynolds, aka 'Deadpool'

 

There's a built in 'cool' factor to this movie that I initially baulked at. When filmmakers take on projects that specifically aim at cool, it usually slips through their fingers. The most ridiculous recent example is Jared Leto's Joker soon to be featured in DC's attempt to emulate Marvel's super-hero team-up success with Suicide Squad. On his forehead is a tattoo saying 'damaged'. Right, like that's necessary and like that's necessary in a gothic font. Sigh. Pointing out what seems to be obvious seems to hurt the character in a way that's hard to define but as soon as I saw photos of the actor in Joker get up with all those self-conscious 'Ha Ha' tattoos, a little bit of me died inside. When you try that hard... I ached for Heath Ledger's incarnation in The Dark Knight (or those who decided on his make up). Leto's 'damaged' tattoo reminded me of Rik Mayall's 'Rik' from TV's The Young Ones showing off that he and his housemates stayed up until "...one o'clock in the morning!" Just a little sad and a little more pathetic. So Deadpool's R-rated (yeah, OK, a 15 in the UK which was a bit of a let down), full of cuss words and hyper violence (TV has been doing this for a while, may I point you to the ongoing and wonderful The Walking Dead?), and from the trailer, the movie features apparently physics-defying stunt action eliciting a big Matrix flavoured yawn. I was unmoved. Of course, I am decades away from the targeted demographic but I was curious on two fronts. Firstly, this movie is making serious money (over half a billion on a fifty-eight million budget), way more than anyone had dreamed it was possible to make with an 'adult' comic book movie and secondly my son was very enthusiastic for me to see it. Money made is no indicator of quality (two words, The Sun) but my own son's recommendation is another receptacle of boiling water containing piscine life forms altogether.

Some mean spirited critic of Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern called him 'a torso'. Not even Casino Royale director Martin Campbell could do enough to rescue that CG stuffed 'dreadlocks in space' turkey. Reynolds is a little more than a torso in Deadpool. In fact, if the press is to believed, here is an actor (physically gorgeous to all and sundry, yadda, yadda, yadda) who worked as hard as the writers and director to get this film made and it warms parts of my own torso to see this kind of passion rewarded. What Tim Miller (director), Reynolds and writers Rhett Rees and Paul Wernick have delivered is a supremely entertaining splash of anti-superhero insurgence with the audience complicit in its - and many others' on screen - execution. If the US remake of House of Cards made fourth wall breaking acceptable within a narrative that still made you care, Deadpool is the gross Private Eye satire coupled with Jon Stewart's Daily Show barbs, smartass movie equivalent. The fourth wall, as well we all know, is the one separating the movie's reality from the reality of the audience experiencing it. Cross it or break it at your peril. Break it in an ill-conceived way and any sympathies for the characters are jettisoned like air from a space ship's hull breech. Get it right, and it's the movie equivalent of having uneaten a myriad of cakes and Schrödinger's Cat style, eating them too – with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top. As Deadpool is dragged off "...to see Professor X", he says "Which one, Stewart or McAvoy? These timelines can get so confusing." To hear Ryan Reynolds reference two fellow actors makes an astounding nonsense of the fragile suspension of disbelief that movies trade on. You know what? No one cares as long as it works and in Deadpool, it works beautifully. I can see why the disrespectful-to-superhero-tradition, Guardians of the Galaxy scared Deadpool's filmmakers but there's enough originality in Deadpool not to worry about comparisons.

Is it worth a plot synopsis? Why not? Smart-ass, ex-Special Forces Wade Wilson is doing good deeds employed by desperate people who need a violent or a threat of violence answer to their problems. He's a bad guy doing bad things to worse guys. Is there a literary term for describing the comic name cliché of the same alliterative letter for characters' Christian and surname? Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Wade Wilson? Stan Lee's memory jogger theory seems awfully lame. Wilson's home base is a bar full of fellow mercenaries and his best friend is the bartender. He meets Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin (the Firefly 'companion' Inara Serra and Homeland's Brody's wife, an actress who manages to effortlessly combine wit, intelligence and playfully advanced sex appeal). Despite the couple's lack of expectation, the two fall in love. My God. This is a romantic comedy! And it's working as such. Except that Deadpool tells me first it is and then, suddenly, it's not.

STOP. HALT. PULL BACK. BREAK. PAUSE. CGI WRAPAROUND.

This is why, in my jaded psyche's judgement, the movie works so well. Every single relationship in Deadpool's life is vivacious, effervescently alive and pulses vibrantly – even the one with his blind, black OAP cohabitee. Despite all the 'nasty' trimmings there is a great deal of love in this movie and it's always so wonderfully unexpected. His best friend is something of a realist. After helping Deadpool to arm himself to the teeth for a confrontation with the big bad, he says "I'd go with you but I don't want to." Lovely. Reynolds and Baccarin have such creative and intellectual compatibility, a shared, serious sexual adventurousness and these traits combined simply make them just a bare assed joy to spend time with. Reynolds' unenthusiastic negative admissions to having his rear end violated – even by his loved one with props – is gross but somehow, it's also sweet. We are seeing a delightful relationship at work here despite the penetrations or lack thereof. This film's more intimate moments race by because they are written with such joy in the celebration of misfit glue and popular culture references. Reynolds makes a Star Wars allusion at one point and his lover corrects him with the simple word "Empire..." Just terrific.

Once realising that their rounded jigsaw pieces fit together, Wade's life falls apart having a diagnosis of terminal, late stage cancer. So, desperate to carry on loving his wonder of a girlfriend (I'm biased. Baccarin is a Firefly alumnus), he makes a decision as we all would in his circumstances. He decides to give his cancer ridden body over to a man whom Wade first judged as a paedophile so he could be tortured until madness to force any mutant gene he had in his DNA to show itself. What Wade didn't know was (a) torture, duh!, (b) that he was then to be enslaved to do the bidding of any rich client (!) and (c) his hideous physical manifestation would lead to a very funny David Beckham joke. But then he did genetically activate the 'heal damn quick' power. Think of Wolverine without the claws and a mouth on overdrive.

The opening title sequence is notable for a number of different reasons. It's a CGI pull back from the middle of a particularly horrific car crash with bullets flying caused by the eponymous antihero. It's the PhD version of the O Level as seen in Fight Club as we pull out from a rubbish bin. It's endlessly fascinating – we assume we're going to see the scenes that led to this über accident which of course was anything but. But the front titles are notable for featuring no one's name. All the jobs are described. My favourites (from memory) are 'Directed by An Overpaid Tool' and 'Written by the Real Heroes'. There be truth in them there credits. As soon as a franchise gets tired, it stirs things up to re-invigorate the elements that people expect but it also attempts to inject originality as a way to make the whole seem new. Deadpool is a superhero movie (he's a rogue X-Man after all) but with enough humour, action smarts and really solid relationships to make the flick stand out among its peers. To be frank, it's the strength of the relationships and not the rude stuff that stood out. But I'll leave you with the Beckham quote. Talk about breaking the fourth wall (remember the actor who is saying this is called Ryan Reynolds...)

Blind Al: Looks aren't everything.
Deadpool: Looks ARE everything! Ever heard Dave Beckham speak? It's like he mouth-sexed a can of helium. You think Ryan Reynolds got this far on a superior acting method?

 

Deadpool

USA | Canada 2016
108 mins
directed by
Tim Miller
produced by
Simon Kinberg
Ryan Reynolds
Lauren Shuler Donner
written by
Rhett Reese
Paul Wernick
based on characters created by
Fabian Nicieza
Rob Liefeld
cinematography
Ken Seng
editing
Julian Clarke
music
Tom Holkenborg
production design
Sean Haworth
starring
Ryan Reynolds
Morena Baccarin
Ed Skrein
T. J. Miller
Gina Carano
Brianna Hildebrand
distributor
20th Century Fox
release date
10 February 2016
review posted
24 February 2016

See all of Camus's reviews