[Screen It]


(2016) (Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein) (R)

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Superhero Action/Comedy: An unlikely superhero with a wicked sense of humor tries to get revenge on the villains who turned him into what he's become.
Wade Wilson (RYAN REYNOLDS) is a former Special Forces op who now works as a mercenary in New York City. He often frequents a bar run by his friend, Weasel (T.J. MILLER), where there's a betting related "dead pool" up on the wall to guess and gamble which of the bar's patrons are likely to perish next. It's there that Wade met female escort Vanessa Carlysle (MORENA BACCARIN) and the two quickly end up in bed and then each other's hearts. But then Wade learns he has late stage cancer, and desperate to live for his new girlfriend, he agrees to a nebulous experiment that reportedly will not only cure his disease but also turn him into a superhero.

But as administered by Francis "Ajax" Freeman (ED SKREIN) and his cohort, Angel Dust (GINA CARANO), it amounts to rounds of torture needed to cause the introduced serum in his body to activate. Once it does, it cures the cancer, but it also badly disfigures his skin while also essentially making him immortal, at least from physical harm. Not wanting Vanessa to see him that way, he ends up rooming with blind former druggie, Blind Al (LESLIE UGGAMS), while also becoming a crime fighter using the name of his newfound superhero alter-ego, Deadpool.

But his vigilante ways don't sit well with two fellow mutants -- the hulking and metallic Colossus (voice of STEFAN KAPICIC) and the energy wave controlling Negasonic Teenage Warhead (BRIANNA HILDEBRAND) -- who want him to join the X-Men forces. He's more interested, however, in finding Ajax and getting his revenge, all while behaving in a decidedly irreverent and profane way.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Considering I was born in 1964, my comic book reading and collecting days ended sometime in the 1970s. Accordingly, and aside from movies and TV shows based on the various characters of old, I haven't paid much attention to the world of comic book characters and certainly am not overly familiar with any new ones introduced since my "retirement" from such reading.

For instance, while I had a working knowledge of "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" when their first film was released, I couldn't name any of the characters. When "The Watchmen" movie came out in 2009, I had no working knowledge of any part of the comic book series from the mid 1980s.

And before seeing this week's release of "Deadpool," the only reference I had -- which I forgot about until recently reading it -- was a brief appearance of the title character in 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." The anti-hero character was played by Ryan Reynolds who reprises the part in his own standalone film.

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine doesn't return the favor by appearing here, but the famous actor and his steel-clawed character are the butt of a number of jokes in a screenplay overflowing with humor, not to mention material one has yet to find in any PG-13 rated Marvel film. No, this R-rated one isn't for the kids (particularly younger tykes), what with sexual content, nudity, profanity and violence that goes above and beyond the previously restrained blood and gore of the pic's more recognized cinematic brethren.

While it's not the first superhero flick to tread down through those adult waters -- "Watchmen" certainly did it, as did "Kick-Ass" -- the mix of that with irreverent humor, the occasional breaking of the so-called "fourth wall," and the overall fun and glee all involved seem to possess makes it highly entertaining for those who won't mind or be offended by the material.

According to my reviewer friends who are still into comic books, this adaptation by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese is quite faithful to the source material. Thus, fans should likely find this to their liking. But the same also holds true for those looking for a send-up of the increasingly tired superhero gene.

In particular, the fun here is derived from the fact that the title character is fully aware that he's a comic book character, and director Tim Miller lets us in on the inside, self-referential and self-deprecating joke via the opening credits sequence. As the camera moves through the freeze-frame moment of what looks to be a particularly violent action sequence, the names usually attached to the various filmmaking roles have been replaced by cheeky descriptors of said parts ("British Villain," "Moody Teenager," and "Overpaid Tool").

The film then rewinds, in the first of several flashback moments, to reveal how we'll get to that point. Not to mention also showing how the Deadpool character came to be and earned his rather unusual superhero name (it's related to a "who's gonna 'bite the big one" gambling pool board up in a bar run by T.J. Miller's character who usually goes toe to toe with Reynolds' in terms of wise-crackery.

Yes, as is oft the case, this is an origins story about how the character spends his days, falls in love with a feisty stripper or escort (Morena Baccarin), then gets diagnosed with late stage cancer, and is then offered immortality. It's not through a vampire's bite, but instead some sort of experimental serum concocted by the film's villains -- played by Ed Skrein and Gina Carano -- that can only be activated through torture. The result solves the cancer issue, but creates a skin problem no amount of Proactiv could ever tackle. Oh, and it means he basically can't be killed, is more mentally unstable than before the "treatment," and gives him a reason to be out for revenge on the villain.

He's eventually joined by two other mutants -- the very proper and philosophical Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), a Russian sounding gentle metal giant) and the coolest named superhero ever, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played by Brianna Hildebrand) -- who seem to have Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters all to themselves (something Deadpool points out by saying the film didn't have the budget for any other X-Men characters).

There really isn't a great deal of plot beyond what I just described, but all involved are going more for tone and style over any sort of award-winning, complicated and intricate plot. That and lots of adult humor, actually quite good and sometimes thrilling action, and a general "This ain't your daddy's Superman or Batman comic book movie" mindset. And Reynolds fits the role to a T, nicely balancing the irreverent, sarcastic and sardonic material with moments that actually elicit some empathy from viewers, not to mention the physical demands of being a believable action superhero anti-hero.

While it's clearly not going to be for all viewers, those who don't mind the material -- or are waiting with baited breath to revel in it -- might just have a highly entertaining 108-some minutes watching it unfold in all of its decidedly adult and politically incorrect glory. Really needing two or more viewings just to catch the barrage of jokes that are fired off so fast you'd think they've come out of a cinematic machine gun, "Deadpool" surprised me a lot by how much irreverent fun it actually is. The film rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed February 4, 2016 / Posted February 12, 2016

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