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A Full Frontal Deadpool Review (Minor Spoilers)
Just come back from seeing Deadpool in Leicester Square. Man what a blast. They got the press in the right mind by offering shots served out of holsters of nubile young women with tied Deadpool T-shirts. Not much pansexuality in the promotions.
Actually, that's a point. Some folk really like to know specific details about such films that might spoil it for the others, so here are links to four slightly more spoilery small pieces about the film for them. The rest of you can ignore them.
There you go. Still not really spoilery.
But the advertising promised much. So many short original scenes with Deadpool grabbing the camera's attention with a bon mot about this and that. And extensive clips too. But I still wasn't prepared for what was to come…
The film opens in a way I have never seen before. Not the frozen action scene, the camera whizzing around Matrix style showing the bullets in mid air, and Deadpool in mid-wedgie, but the names that roll over the credits.
When signing onto a film, one of the negotiations is always about credits. Who comes first, how big, how prominent at the beginning of the film, there are union rules and regulations. Which for Deadpool have been totally done away with, we have "Produced by Asshats" "Directed By An Overpaid Tool" and actors named as "British Villain", "Moody Teen", "CGI Character". That's it, no names are mentioned. I really can't recall seeing anything so blatantly in your face in a Hollywood movie that set the tone for the comedy to come so well. It's rather Monty Python's Holy Grail.
It's not the only Monty Python reference, the dialogue between Wade Wilson and Vanessa, comparing tragic childhood stories is right out of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch. His first fight against Colossus is the Black Knight from Holy Grail. It has to be deliberate. As is the "sit on my face" line.
Because if Deadpool is running through a film that breaks the four walls (sixteen walls at one point, according to Deadpool), it's going to refer those who have done similar (remember "it's only a model" in Holy Grail?)
And then it throws it all through the Tarantino/Vaughn filter. But we have never seen its like before, the closest reference I can find to give is The Mask. But it goes far further, complaining about studio limitations, sticking used gum on the camera lens, at one point, grabbing the camera and turning it way from a particularly brutal beating.
But for all that, there is a narrative. We met Wade Wilson pre-Deadpoolification and he is just the same as post – aside from not breaking fourth walls. We are left, as a result, that something about Deadpool's transformation has affected his mind – given him extra sight beyond reality, or that he is truly insane. And suddenly he is the unreliable narrator, how much is actually happening to him? The references to other films pile on, from his Hugh Jackman Australian accent, to a visit to the X-Mansion "the house that blows up every few years", to his curiosity over which of the two Professor Xs he is gong to meet (spoiler, neither) dismissing him as "creepy bald heavens gate-looking motherf-cker". Indeed he blatantly references the fact that Fox will only give them two X-Men characters to play with. And as the machismo ramps up, he takes a moment to express concern for the female audience of the film, promising a love story.
And, by golly, you get one with Vanessa, sex worker and just as screwed up as Wade in her own violent way. We see their lives together, and how they just work as a couple, supporting each other – until Wade does the very male thing, believing she should no longer have to deal with what he has become. The comic book version of the character, Copycat, was all powered up – this is not Vanessa. But she's hardly helpless and holds her own. And Wade's own. Quite a lot. They seem to really deserve each other, so woe anyone who gets between that. Especially when that's Wade.
But what he does remains utterly forgiveable, because that is Deadpool's real superpower, he never gives up. He stays impossibly keen, and rather than annoying it becomes endearing, even heroic, to make dick jokes while facing certain death.
The film uses that attitude to get round several plot holes – when Deadpool has few weapons, resorting to limited bullets or his katana swords, but at no point choosing to pick up one of the bad guys' guns and use that. It's a gaping lack of reason – but that's absolutely fine, this is Deadpool, this is just the way he wants to do things. Challenge always accepted…
There should be lots of love for Weasel and Blind Al. The former is the only other person allowed to break the fourth wall, encouraging the plot to move along. And Blind Al is – well Blind Al. Coke-using gun-toting elderly woman who is immune to the worst insults Deadpool can throw at her. She has seen it all. Even his tiny regrowing hand stroking her chin. There may be some concern about the many blind jokes – but she is such a thoroughly together character that nothing touches her. Spinoff?
Teenage Negasonic Warhead is little more than a cool name and an attitude to be envied, but that is emphasised to massive effect. And the use of Colossus as the ultimate straight man to Deadpool is a master stroke. This is a character without any knowledge of subtext, irony, and a thick Russian accent to give Deadpool (and others) the chance to constantly play off him. And so time and time he is the butt of the jokes, but he's Colossus, nothing touches him. He's a bit like Blind Al in that respect. One moment of mid-fight scene nudity is also played off Colossus for laughs, far more restrained here than in the strip club because, you know, Colossus finds it embarrassing.
And that's what this film really achieves. It has different tones competing for the central narrative trust if the film. It is a patchwork of ideas, approaches and attitudes that should make no sense, shoved cheek by jowl like this. It is a sex comedy, a romantic love story, slice-of-life, an action packed revenge thriller, a gore slasher, a bromance, a Bugs Bunny cartoon (oh yes, the cartoon madness does descend at one point) and it is riotously filthy, salacious, scatalogical but at no point does the film lose you. If you start to question aspects of the film, it questions them too.
And Ryan Reynolds owns the screen. His presence makes you wonder how Green Lantern could be so bad. Pre and post Deadpoolification, with and without mask, He makes you wonder what the hell he is going to say next – and then still shocks and surprises you when he says it.
This is not just a film that is aware of itself but a film that is aware that it is aware of itself. When it comes down to it, the film is emotionally empty and superficial, but it has made that a strength. Some superhero films have piled on the melodrama and allegories to desperately make the film matter. Deadpool doesn't care about any of that. It just wants the audience to lose its popcorn.
Either that, or I have been transformed, like the cab driver….
You will come out of Deadpool wondering exactly what it was you just saw, how anyone allowed it to be made and wondering when you'll get to see it again.