A Deadpool movie has been bandied about for years – particularly by star Ryan Reynolds, who’s been dying for another shot at playing the so-called Merc with a Mouth after his bastardized appearance in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” – but it wasn’t until the test footage shot by first-time director Tim Miller was leaked in 2014 that Fox decided to move forward with the project. And it’s a good think they did, because although the film deviates slightly from its source material and relies a lot more on the included love story than expected, “Deadpool” is a fresh and entertaining action-comedy that demonstrates why studios should take more risks, especially when it comes to the superhero genre.
Before he went by the name Deadpool, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) was a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary just trying to earn a living and help people out along the way. But when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after meeting his kindred spirit, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wade accepts an offer to take part in an experimental treatment from a shadowy organization run by a deranged mutant named Ajax (Ed Skrein), who takes pleasure in torturing his patients. Miraculously, Wade’s cancer is cured and he gains accelerated healing abilities not unlike those of a certain X-Man, but his entire body is horribly scarred in the process. After he escapes from the facility, Wade decides to wear a disguise and assume a new identity in order to exact revenge on the man responsible for both saving and ruining his life, unwittingly dragging Vanessa into the conflict.
The movie opens smack dab in the middle of Deadpool’s hunt for Ajax and slowly doles out his backstory in bits and pieces via flashback. It’s a really clever way of getting around the tediousness of the comic book origin story, and it’s just one of the great things about Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay, which nails the dark, twisted and juvenile tone of the wisecracking character. From the hilariously self-aware opening credits, it’s clear that “Deadpool” isn’t your typical superhero film, and Miller takes advantage of the character’s distinct, fourth wall-breaking personality by littering it with in-jokes about “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Green Lantern” and Hugh Jackman. It also completely earns its “R” rating with enough violence and foul-mouthed language to please diehard fans.
While Deadpool tends to be a pretty lonesome character (in the comics, he often has full conversations with himself, or rather, the voices in his head), it was a smart decision to team him up with steel-skinned X-Man Colossus (voiced by Stephan Kapicic) and mutant trainee Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) for part of the story. Not only does it connect Deadpool to the larger X-Men universe, but it provides him with a pair of comic foils and suitable opponents for Ajax’s own super-powered sidekick (Gina Carano). Though Colossus has gotten short shrift in the X-Men movies thus far, he and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are the film’s secret weapons. It’s the perfect example of using one property to enhance another, especially a lesser-known one like Deadpool.
Baccarin, T.J. Miller (as Wade’s confidant, Weasel) and Skrein (who’s basically just a poor man’s Jason Statham) all deliver solid work, but this is Ryan Reynolds’ movie from start to finish. The actor is perfectly cast (again) as the snarky mercenary, bringing the character to life with such astonishing accuracy that it’s like he leapt from the pages of the comics. Reynolds has been so essential to getting this film greenlit that it was never really a question whether he should return, and between him and the rest of the creative team, it’s obvious that they made “Deadpool” specifically with the fans in mind. But thanks to the strength of the script and Miller’s direction, as well as Reynolds’ committed performance, “Deadpool” stretches beyond sheer fan service to deliver a unique take on the subgenre that audiences unfamiliar with the character will enjoy as well.