Gory, sarcastic, obnoxious, profane, frequently nude and more than a touch sexist, the hard-R-rated “Deadpool” is the movie every 15-year-old hard-core Marvel fanboy has been holding his breath for.
The genre-subverting film is more an audacious spinoff than a new addition to the current crop of comic-based action adventures. It gives us Ryan Reynolds as a cynical, wisecracking, ultraviolent antihero (if he’s any variety of hero at all).
“Zombieland” writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick explain his obligatory back story through a series of broken fourth walls. They have their main character speak directly to the audience when he’s not insulting everyone within the aggressive sound of his voice.
Reynolds plays special ops veteran Wade Wilson, a thug with a heart of gold — well, brass — who earns beer money by slapping around bros who stalk young honeys. When he is tortured into a disfigured mutant by a villainous scientist (Ed Skrein) aiming to sell him as a superservant, he costumes up, adopts the nickname Deadpool and sets out to get even.
His payback scheme begins in the pre-credits opening sequence, a bravura battle sequence by first-time director Tim Miller. His background in video games gives him impressive visual chops. Deadpool triggers a multicar highway smashup, shoots a posse of his evil doctor’s henchmen to bloody smithereens, gives them a slice-and-dice with his samurai cutlery set and soccer-kicks one severed head into another still functioning.
And that’s before the movie even begins. It’s a good introduction to the main character, who later steers a Zamboni across an ice rink to snail-pace its way over a fallen enemy.
“Deadpool” carries the 20th Century Fox sector of Marvel’s cinematic universe well above the fantastic flop of last summer’s “Fantastic Four.” It’s much more enjoyable than the studio’s 2009 prequel “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” where Reynolds first played the role of the serial-killing swordsman, less wisecracking there because his lips were sewn shut.
Is the long awaited follow-up a triumphant return for the motormouth mercenary? No, considering the long gestation period. Is it a hoot? Largely, yeah, if you like smug, dumb in-your-face humor.
And if you’re the kind of viewer who enters nirvana through a path of Easter eggs, in-jokes, meta-gags and pop-culture one-liners, your prayers are answered. The script throws abuse at Hugh Jackman, Reynolds’ dreadful work in “Green Lantern,” James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, Wham!, Salt-N-Pepa and even Marvel founder Stan Lee, who is cast as the DJ in a seedy strip club.
In a visit to X-Men headquarters, Reynolds gripes that his sidekicks are only a CGI-animated figure of the gentle steel giant Colossus and his bratty trainee Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) because the film couldn’t afford name talent from the franchise.
But the rapid-fire punchlines don’t last forever. With forced downshifts, the story drops speed for sizable passages of serious romance and illness-related grief involving Deadpool’s skanky but sweet girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). As Deadpool observes in his opening monologue, there are women who were pulled into the theater on dates, and that demographic needs attention, too.
Baccarin’s funniest moments come from her ability to quote “Star Wars” with the level of scholarship that fan-dudes dream about. Bringing the story back up to ultra-goofy speed requires a lot of gear-grinding and accelerator stomping.
As wicked as it is, “Deadpool” lacks the genre-sendup style of Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick Ass” and “Kingsmen.” It’s not at the level of Reese and Wernick’s “Zombieland.” It’s not in the same league as the “21 Jump Street” movies. But without a doubt, it’s the best Marvel movie until the next Marvel movie.