The Merc with a Mouth returns in this eagerly-awaited second outing. Richard gives us his thoughts.
Back in 2016, Deadpool pretty much hit the cinematic zeitgeist like an oncoming 18-wheeler filled with blood, sex and silly. Exceeding all projected profit margins and bringing that much avoided “R” rating back into the superhero business, it was damn near a revolution in Hollywood terms. Trying to make that kind of lightning strike twice was always going to be nigh on impossible, and the temptation to simply follow the generic formula of “Same But Bigger” must have been a strong one for the studios, but I am down on my knees giving praise to whatever mischievous deity helped us avoid that fate.
While Deadpool 2 is certainly playing a bigger game than its predecessor, the major development has been through taking the original’s comedic mix of pop culture, vulgarity and self-reference, and sharpening it to a fine point. This would have been enough to make the film good, but what truly elevates it into lightning strike distance is through the damn near ruthless application of a narrative and thematic emotional core. You expect Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool to touch you in many places… but not your heart.
I’m invoking a spoiler alert for this paragraph, as to discuss the story of Deadpool 2 requires discussion of its inciting incident. And I’ve got to admit, this incident incited me… it incited me a lot! Following in the footsteps of Logan, DP goes on a story of redemption through sacrifice and “the family you find.” Now, Deadpool at the end of the first film seemed neither in need of finding family or, at least in his mind, any redemption. That changes with the pre-credits murder of Vanessa (the first film’s hot mcguffin) by an assassination target that got away, leading Deadpool into a chaotic downward spiral his immortal body is unable to complete. This is about as clichéd as it comes, and while I get that it’s kind of a gag and they do some interesting stuff, it still pissed me of when I saw it. When given a task from beyond the grave to save a mutant boy from a torturous rehab clinic and a future life of massacre, Deadpool assembles a crack team of mutants to make the X-Force. What happens next needs to be seen to be believed, so no further spoilers from me. Just be aware that I cried laughing.
Their main adversary is Josh Brolin’s Cable, a cybernetic super soldier from the future who brings some much-needed gravitas to the franchise. Brolin’s combination of dramatic intensity and old man warrior physicality really ups the ante for a lot of the actions beats, which coming from John Wick and Atomic Blonde veteran David Lietch, are truly fantastic. Having already shown some serious straight action chops, the former stuntman turned director has yet to find an aspect of violence he can’t bring to the big screen, and several sequences are as exciting as they are funny. Huge props to the magnificently-named Zazie Beetz for her portrayal of the lucky Domino who not only plays a great straight to Reynolds’ wacky, but also brings her own sarcastic humor and confidence to the mix. The weight of the film, however, rests on Reynolds and, as we have come to expect from a role he seems born to play, he knocks it out of the park. While the gags and jokes are too many to count and several don’t stick, Reynolds and his co-writers have truly mastered the art of sheer quantity over quality.
It’s odd that in the midst of all the chaos, car chases, questionably-hidden prison shanks, raining blood, and toddler legs (don’t ask), there’s room for that heart-touching core I mentioned earlier. In truth, Deadpool manages for the most part to walk the line between overly sentimental and comedic by taking a tone of heartfelt but stupid honesty. The relationship between Wade and Vanessa from the first film worked because it felt so real in its own over-the-top and offensive way. That realness is brought full force into Wade’s loss, and his attempts to be a better person for the sake of a young boy so desperately in need of an actual friend in a world that unquestionably threw him to the curb. As a performance from behind a silly red mask and cancer makeup, it’s a kind of a beautiful achievement that something so utterly offensive, so completely silly, makes me want to actually care.
As is always the case, nothing is ever perfect. Deadpool 2 aims to fit in as much as humanly possible into its two hours. It wants its cocaine and to snort it, too. For some, the gleeful and ridiculous action will be too OTT, for others, the attempts at drama will fall heavily on what many expected to be just another fun romp. For me, I found the balance to be there, if at times it all became a bit questionable. Humour works best when its relatable and personal. I believe that Reynolds and the gang were smart enough to realise this and so played an entire audience for suckers. By trusting in their dream pairing of actor and role, Deadpool 2 had the confidence to go places most straight superhero movies don’t really have the guts to go to. It tried to tell a story about bad things happening to good people, and everything that happens after that is in consequence.
I adored this film. The after-credits had me almost on the floor clutching my ribs from laughter and the sheer audacity of some of the film’s moments really took me for a ride. Yet, afterwards, it was the little things that made the most impression, and while the film couldn’t help but completely invalidate itself in the last five minutes, I still feel their “nothing” of a story was worth telling. The crazy, the gritty, the heart, and the heroism, Deadpool 2 has all the needed ingredients to make an even better batch of chimichangas.