Dead­pool’s crude awak­en­ing

It’s not per­fect, but the al­ter­na­tive su­per­hero’s come­back is bet­ter than its ob­nox­ious pre­de­ces­sor, says Paul Whit­ing­ton

Irish Independent - - The Critics -

Dead­pool 2 (16, 119mins) ★★★★★

As the su­per­hero movie spreads like a ma­lig­nant canker to ev­ery cor­ner of main­stream film-mak­ing, it has branched out in un­ex­pected ways. In the last two years or so we’ve had su­per­hero slap­stick (Thor: Rag­narok), su­per­hero meta­physics (Doc­tor Strange), su­per­hero fem­i­nism (Won­der Woman) and su­per­hero self-satire (Dead­pool).

Though that last film was praised to the skies by some crit­ics for its dar­ing ni­hilism, I found it a tire­some, nasty, misog­y­nis­tic pro­duc­tion, in which the an­ti­hero’s whin­ing mock­ery was in­ter­spersed with spec­tac­u­larly un­pleas­ant out­bursts of vi­o­lence. It had no charm and show­cased Ryan Reynolds at his most ir­ri­tat­ingly smug.

My ex­pec­ta­tions of the se­quel, then, were not sky high. But while no mas­ter­piece, Dead­pool 2 is fun­nier than the orig­i­nal, and not nearly so ob­jec­tion­able. In the 2016 film, we were in­tro­duced to Wade Wil­son (Reynolds), a wellinten­tioned mer­ce­nary who’s work­ing Man­hat­tan’s mean streets when he’s di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal lung can­cer. He’s reel­ing from this news when a mys­te­ri­ous stranger of­fers to in­ject him with a spe­cial serum that will cure his dis­ease and un­leash hid­den mu­tant su­per­pow­ers. It did that al­right, but also se­verely dis­fig­ured him, af­ter which he be­came a venge­ful and un­sta­ble masked avenger.

Wade’s su­per­hero al­ter ego is Dead­pool and his pow­ers in­clude great strength, agility and an abil­ity to re­cover from even the most ter­ri­ble wound. But he seems un­sure about su­per­hero eti­quette, and tends to leave a trail of man­gled corpses in his wake. He’s a kind of punk X-Man who swears like a long­shore­man, drinks to ex­cess and uses duct tape to stop the arse of his home­made su­per­hero suit from fall­ing out.

The one civil­is­ing in­flu­ence in Wade’s life is Vanessa (Ari­ana Bac­carin), a for­mer pros­ti­tute to whom he’s hope­lessly de­voted. At the start of Dead­pool 2, they’re plan­ning to start a fam­ily to­gether when a crim­i­nal gang stages a bru­tal raid on his apart­ment. Wade and Vanessa are separated and with­out her calm­ing in­flu­ence he de­scends into a tail­spin of ni­hilis­tic vi­o­lence and ends up in prison. There he be­friends a teenage mu­tant called Rus­sell, who can shoot fire from his fists but seems lost and vul­ner­a­ble.

Mean­while, a cy­ber­netic mu­tant sol­dier called Cable (Josh Brolin) has trav­elled back in time and seems hell-bent on killing Rus­sell. But what Wade wants to know is why?

Based on a 1990s Marvel comic book char­ac­ter, Dead­pool and Dead­pool 2 are un­ruly off­shoots of the X-Men fran­chise and in­tended as salty satires on the pompous whole­some­ness of that film se­ries and the su­per­hero genre in gen­eral. The first film had shock value: its vi­o­lence was ni­hilis­tic, the F-word was dis­pensed with gay aban­don and Wade seemed to mock the very idea that any­one could claim to be a hero at all.

Its louch­eness and low hu­mour made Dead­pool a sur­prise hit: made for un­der $60m, it grossed al­most $800m world­wide, re­vived Reynold’s mori­bund movie ca­reer and, in the US, be­came the sec­ond most prof­itable R-rated film ever, be­hind Mel Gib­son’s Pas­sion Of The Christ.

There’s a ref­er­ence to that in Dead­pool 2, which is full of such knowing in-jokes. When Dead­pool is asked for an au­to­graph, he signs it Ryan Reynolds. He breaks the fourth wall con­stantly and com­ments reg­u­larly on the su­per­hero genre. When he first meets Josh Brolin’s char­ac­ter Cable, he says “you’re dark — are you from the DC Uni­verse?”. All of

this is won­der­ful news for diehard su­per­hero buffs, who tit­tered du­ti­fully from murky cor­ners at the screen­ing I at­tended. Dead­pool 2 is very pleased with it­self, and not nearly so sub­ver­sive as it imag­ines: for all its swear­ing and preen­ing cyn­i­cism, it’s still a su­per­hero film and that’s about as blandly main­stream as you can get.

But the writ­ing’s fun­nier this time and Reynold’s ex­haust­ingly en­er­getic per­for­mance holds the show to­gether, while leav­ing lit­tle room for any­one else to shine.

Dead funny: Ryan Reynolds is a riot in Dead­pool 2 and (in­set right) tak­ing on Josh Brolin as Cable

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