Ryan Reynolds' face in the gleefully R-rated superhero flick Deadpool, which opens widely on Friday, is often obscured by a red mask. Deadpool is the alias of Wade Wilson, a smooth-talking bruiser with terminal cancer.
His face has been grotesquely mutated in an experimental procedure, facilitated by generic bad guy Ajax (Ed Skrein), a scientist-cum-weapons dealer with super strength.
Wilson escapes Ajax's clutches, but not before he's been imbued with healing powers (like Wolverine), generic superhero stuff, and a brand new look:
"You look like Freddy Krueger face-fucked a topographical map of Utah," says bar-owner pal Weasel (Silicon Valley's T.J. Miller).
Indeed. The handsome face of Ryan Reynolds is hideously scarred. The central question in the movie — generic and predictable, as are most of the story questions in the genre — is whether or not the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), will take him back. Will he even have the courage to face her in his physically damaged state?
Deadpool, from the first shot to the last, is entirely too enamored of its own naughtiness and meta commentary. The opening credits reveal not names, but satirical descriptors: It stars "God's Perfect Idiot," we're told, as an issue of People magazine with Ryan Reynolds, "Sexiest Man Alive," appears on the seat of a toppling SUV.
The script is rife with innuendo and outrageous sex scenarios. In an early montage — the origin story is communicated via extended flashback — Wade and Vanessa celebrate the holidays with themed sex acts. "Happy Thanksgiving," Vanessa says, as she shoves mashed potatoes into Wade's open mouth. "Happy Lent," Wade says, a few shots later, as they sit across from each other, tastefully dressed, reading magazines.
There are countless other meta moments: Deadpool speculates that the absence of X-Men A-listers might be the result of the studio's budget constraints; when he's dragged by the X-Man Colossus to see Dr. Charles Xavier, he asks: "McAvoy or Stewart?" And these moments are in keeping with Deadpool's comic-book persona. In the Marvel universe, Deadpool is unique in his awareness of his existence as a character. He routinely breaks the fourth wall to interact with readers. In the film, this is mostly a cutesy gimmick — and at first, it really is delightful — but in aggregate, it's a tiresome gag.
There are laughs to be had, make no mistake. But you won't be able to get through a single scene without the writers reminding you how clever they think they are. And though the banter is consistently witty, the delights are fleeting. You'll leave with an impression of amusement rather than any legitimate emotional response. The opening sequence unfolds as a tableau, and is mesmerizingly cool, but the imagination on the action side stops there. Fights devolve into things like butthole shots and dick punches.
Deadpool, as you're watching it, seems exceedingly fun, but for all its noise and wit — even Tony Stark must play second fiddle to this jaunty repartee — it still manages to say precisely nothing. — Sam Allard