2018, R, 103 min. Directed by David Leitch. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Stefan Kapicic, Bill Skarsgård, Terry Crews.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 18, 2018
Ryan Reynolds is a massive nerd in an era of comic blockbusters. After the core Marvel Cinematic Universe broke all our hearts with Avengers: Infinity War, he’s sliding into his too-tight neoprene and Kevlar onesie to help us heal them a little bit in Fox's X-verse with Deadpool 2.
But not too fast. The 2016 original was an unlikely R-rated smash was a foul-mouthed, head-severing delight, and for the sequel old Deadpool aka Wade Wilson is still enjoying the mercenary killer lifestyle, balanced by domestic bliss with Vanessa (Baccarin), until everything goes to pieces – including Deadpool. Then comes the inevitable arrival of his nemesis/best bud from the comics Cable (Brolin, playing double comics duty this year after Avengers big bad Thanos, here growling and snarling with appropriate disdain). His coming was announced in the closing credits stinger for the first film, and fortunately the biomechanical assassin timeslides with far less of the complicated continuity baggage that has plagued him in print. Here he’s a supersoldier from the future, sent back to dispatch a young mutant called Rusty Collins (Hunt for the Wilderpeople's Dennison) who will be responsible for untold horrors. Only Deadpool, who is becoming something like an adult, thinks that killing kids is, y’know, wrong. Especially one who spews as many obscenities as he does.
Director David Leitch rebounds from the ditchwater dull Atomic Blonde with all the fourth-wall busting excitement this franchise demands. Building on the heavy lifting by prequel helmer Tim Miller, he pushes the idiocy and violence even further (think Wade’s baby hand was disturbing? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet). As the depressed Deadpool smears his misery across the faces of those that come to his aid (most especially Kapicic as Colossus, a metallic Dudley Do-Right), he’s insufferably hilarious. When he decides he’s going to form his own knock-off X-Men, the kill-crazy X-Force, he’s a laff-riot liability.
It all boils down to one important fact: Reynolds gets these comics. Wade Wilson isn’t just a wise-cracking scumbag. He’s actually, at heart, a nice guy who just happens to heal impossibly quick and is very good at killing terrible people. Plus, he’s really, really annoying, and that’s such a katana-thin edge to walk on that it’s always breathtaking to see Reynolds not just cross it, but waltz and booty shake down its shaft.
He and his co-writers even drag in obscure parts of the lore: not anything as prosaic as a little-remembered character (although there are plenty of those), but narrative subtext. For die-hards, it seems pretty clear that his unlikely fatherly devotion to Rusty is a nod to Uncanny X-Force’s bleak The Apocalypse Solution arc, where he decides to save a clone of immortal powerhouse En Sabah Nur, who … wait, if you don’t need to know all of Cable’s back story, you definitely don’t need to know this. But it’s all a part of who Deadpool is: He’s the killer who spent the last movie worried that his girlfriend wouldn’t like him with a face like a shaved kiwi fruit. He may be the glib goofball with the inappropriate sense of humor, but he’s still your ever loving pal. Of course he’s going to be the guy that tries to stop some crazy man with a robot eye from traveling through time to kill future Hitler.
Which is what makes the odd moments when Deadpool 2 stumbles – not hard, but definitely with a few wobbles – more off-putting. Like some very shaky CGI for the reveal of the inevitable closing act big bad, or Beetz as the luckier-than-thou mutant Domino: she’s glorious as the dismissive and quick-witted sidekick, but doesn’t feel like the comic character. Yes, the fledgling franchise has successfully rewritten characters (don’t even try to find what the print version of Hildebrand’s cocky Negasonic Teenage Warhead was like – you’ll be very disappointed), but this incarnation of Domino ignores how much she loves the carnage. It’s a weird missed beat, but it’s no stab through the heart for the film. After all, Ryan Reynolds is a massive nerd, and we are all the better (if a little more blood-splattered) for it.