If you don’t know what a teabag is—and I don’t mean the Earl Grey kind—then “Deadpool” might not be for you. Marvel gives itself a full reach-around in this gloriously profane comic book adaptation, which stars Ryan Reynolds as bottom-feeding mercenary Wade Wilson, and director Tim Miller wildly overcompensates for the watered-down version of the character we saw briefly in the first “Wolverine” spinoff. Extreme in every way its R-rating will allow, this crude, bloody, batshit crazy origin story will leave you either completely satisfied or utterly mortified. Either way, be sure to stick around for what is hands-down the best post-credits sequence of recent memory.
Imagine if Reynolds’ perverted character from “Waiting” had super powers. Marvel’s morally adrift dark horse definitely wields a mean sword, but his mouth is the real lethal weapon, with no bounds to his sardonic, genital-centric wit. A bona fide relative of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men” franchise, but kind of like that inappropriate second cousin that no one would ever take to a wedding, “Deadpool” is in part a parody, mocking the very franchise that spawned it, while quite possibly beginning a raunchy new superhero/comedy sub-genre all its own.
Wilson is an ex-special forces operative turned mutant by bad guy Ajax (Ed Skrein), who’s building an army of mutant super-slaves for some undisclosed third party for ambiguously evil purposes. The opening car chase finds Wilson slicing and dicing his way through hordes of henchmen like Ace Ventura decked out in ninja garb, with a propensity for eviscerating, decapitating and shish kabobing his opponents before breaking out in a celebratory end zone dance. His accelerated healing powers really come in handy when he takes a bullet to the rectum, takes a Ka-Bar to the skull, or needs to saw off his own hand to get out of a bind.
The film renders itself virtually immune to conventional criticisms, at least as far as superhero movies go, simply by acknowledging itself as a ridiculous superhero movie. Reynolds habitually breaks the fourth wall to discuss genre tropes, stereotypes and plot holes due to budgetary restraints, and affectionately pokes fun at Hugh Jackman (a.k.a. Wolverine) on several occasions. There’s even a sneaky dig at DC Comics’ Reynolds-starring dud “Green Lantern”.
Exposition cuts in and out to catch us up to the opening melee. Wilson spends his nights at a bar that is exclusive to miscreant bounty hunter types, run by sidekick/bartender weasel (T.J. Miller). He scares off the occasional stalker for meager compensation; I’m no hero, he insists, just a bad guy getting rid of worse guys. Wilson ends up meeting beautiful Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), with whom he trades stories of traumatic childhoods and plays skee-ball before a graphic and hilarious sex montage leads to them professing their love for one another. (For a moment, it looks like something from a Nicholas Sparks novel, until Vanessa straps on a dildo).
But soon thereafter, Wilson is diagnosed with stage four cancer. With promise of a cure and desperate to spare his lady the suffering of watching him wither away, he turns to Ajax, whose hi-tech medical facility looks like the dank basement hellhole in “Jacob’s Ladder”. Ajax – a.k.a. Francis, as Wilson surmises from the dry cleaning tag on his lab coat– explains that brutal, sustained tortured can trigger a mutation that will kill off the cancer and give him super-strength. Neither Francis nor his ice-cold enforcer (Gina Carano) have a particularly warm bedside manner, and it’s not long before the douchey Brit is prattling on about his diabolical plan. After enduring a whole lot of pain, Wilson escapes in an explosion, but not before the mutation turns him into Darkman.
Let’s just say that Wilson’s support group ain’t exactly the Justice League. It consists of a lovelorn cab driver (Karan Soni), an old blind lady (Leslie Uggams) with whom he shares modest living quarters, and best buddy Weasel, who runs a betting pool on the life expectancy of his patrons (hence, Deadpool). A beacon of tact, Weasel likens Wilson’s deformed face to Freddy Krueger screwing a topographical map of Iowa, among other colorful analogies. (Ryan Reynolds + T.J. Miller = comedy gold, by the way).
At least Ajax/Francis wasn’t lying about the super powers. Virtually unkillable, Wilson believes that his nemesis possesses some sort of industrial-grade Proactiv that will clear up his avocado face, but his priorities change when Vanessa is taken hostage at a clichéd and precariously constructed junk yard-adjacent mega-fortress. He reluctantly calls on two “peripheral” X-Men characters—Colossus (Stefan Capicic) and a diminutive fireball called Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand)–the only two that the “Deadpool” budget would allow for, Reynolds’ character suspects as Professor X’s mansion is always suspiciously vacant.
The morally grounded Colossus is intent on recruiting Deadpool into the X-Men. But a future franchise crossover movie might prove tricky when our red leather-clad anti-hero is never far from a dick joke—it would be like trying to merge “The Hangover” with “Spider-Man”. Billing its star as “An Overpaid Tool”, its director as “Some Douchebag”, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick as “The Real Heroes” in the opening credits, it’s clear that “Deadpool” is going for full-bore comedy. That said, Reynolds and Baccarin’s chemistry gives the film a soul and some sense of urgency in between over-the-top fight sequences. I’ve always been a Reynolds apologist, and this suitably vulgar flick is like the ultimate payoff, with the most entertaining Marvel character ever to hit the big screen taking a loving dump all over typical big budget comic book fare. It’s almost surprising that Stan Lee has his usual cameo, and it’s a great one. Grownups, enjoy every nasty, insane minute, but for the kiddos, best to pass this one up and wait for “X-Men: Apocalypse” later this year. “Deadpool” holds nothing sacred. And you haven’t seen it all until you’ve seen a superhero in Crocs.