Dead­pool 2 is self-ref­er­en­tial. And per­fect

The Peterborough Examiner - - Arts & Life - MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN The Wash­ing­ton Post

In a re­cent in­ter­view, the star of “Dead­pool 2” joked that his char­ac­ter prob­a­bly wouldn’t like the ac­tor who plays him very much, say­ing, “I feel like Dead­pool can’t stand Ryan Reynolds.”

And he’s prob­a­bly right. There is, in fact, a scene in the new movie in which the foul-mouthed con­tract killer with a heart of gold — and here I’m talk­ing about Dead­pool, not Reynolds — ac­tu­ally ap­pears to kill the Cana­dian-born movie star, adding a snarky “You’re wel­come, Canada” as he vi­o­lently does him in.

But what would Dead­pool think of the movie?

That ques­tion, how­ever rhetor­i­cal, en­cap­su­lates the chal­lenge in­her­ent in re­view­ing this new Marvel se­quel. The fol­lowup to the sec­ond high­est-gross­ing R-rated fea­ture of all time (af­ter “The Pas­sion of the Christ”) is, like the 2016 orig­i­nal, a meta­movie so self-ref­er­en­tial that it’s like an in­fi­nite re­gres­sion of fac­ing mir­rors. Even talk­ing about it re­quires air quotes within air quotes.

At one point, Dead­pool, his voice drip­ping with sar­casm, refers to the char­ac­ter of Cable — a time trav­el­ling, part-cy­borg war­rior from the fu­ture played by Josh Brolin — as “Thanos.” (Thanos, of course, is also the name of Brolin’s char­ac­ter in “Avengers: Infinity War.”)

It’s as if Dead­pool ex­ists si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­side the movie and out­side it: He’s both a char­ac­ter in the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse and a highly jaun­diced critic of it at the same time. Watch­ing “Dead­pool 2” is like hav­ing Dead­pool sit­ting next to you with a bucket of pop­corn, trash­ing what­ever is tak­ing place on­screen — and all of pop cul­ture, re­ally — like an R-rated ver­sion of one of the B-movielov­ing ro­bots from “Mys­tery Science The­ater 3000.”

Of course, “Dead­pool 2” is no B-movie, notwith­stand­ing the fre­quent jokes (cour­tesy of Dead­pool) about its “lazy writ­ing.” “Dead­pool 2,” it should be noted, was co-writ­ten by Reynolds, along with Rhett Reese and Paul Wer­nick of “Zom­bieland,” and di­rected by stunt­man-turned­film­maker David Leitch, who is iden­ti­fied in the open­ing cred­its — ac­cu­rately, as it hap­pens — as “one of the guys who killed the dog in ‘John Wick.’” Far from lazy, it is a fairly bril­liant send-up of comic-book ac­tion movies, as well as also be­ing an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of one.

The plot in this sec­ond out­ing con­cerns Dead­pool’s un­likely, and fairly re­luc­tant, men­tor­ship of a 14-year-old mu­tant named Rus­sell (a.k.a. Fire­fist, for his abil­ity to — well, you can prob­a­bly guess from the name, which sounds bet­ter than “Hothands.”) Played by Ju­lian Den­ni­son, the young New Zealand ac­tor from “Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple,” Rus­sell turns out to have been sex­u­ally abused by the head­mas­ter (Ed­die Marsan) of the mu­tant academy he at­tends.

Yes, this film is rated R for a rea­son. For sev­eral rea­sons, to be hon­est. It’s way darker and way dirt­ier than was the first “Dead­pool.”

To con­tinue: Rus­sell wants to kill his abuser, but Cable wants to kill Rus­sell be­fore he can do that. Ap­par­ently, if Rus­sell is al­lowed to get a taste for blood, he will grow up to wreak havoc on Cable’s fu­ture world. Sound fa­mil­iar?

At an­other point in the film, Dead­pool calls Rus­sell “John Con­nor,” the hero from the sim­i­larly themed “Ter­mi­na­tor” movies. Talk about lazy writ­ing.

But Dead­pool, who has grown a bit of a soft spot for the boy, wants to try to talk Rus­sell out of his re­venge plan, lead­ing to a show­down be­tween, iron­i­cally, diplo­macy and as­sas­si­na­tion. On Team Dead­pool is the mu­tant known as Domino (Zazie Beetz of “At­lanta”), whose su­per­power is un­be­liev­able good luck. In a very funny but bloody se­quence, she proves to be the sole sur­vivor of an air­borne assault by a team of hap­less mu­tants, in­clud­ing char­ac­ters played by — if ever so briefly — Terry Crews, Bill Skars­gard, Lewis Tan and one un­cred­ited celebrity, mak­ing a de­light­ful, if grue­some, cameo.

Noth­ing is sa­cred here, ex­cept com­edy. At the same time that “Dead­pool 2” mocks ev­ery­thing from su­per­hero ac­tion to au­di­tion mon­tages, it in­oc­u­lates it­self against any crit­i­cism that might come its way. That’s “Dead­pool 2’s” real — and real sub­ver­sive — su­per­power: The abil­ity to laugh, un­spar­ingly, at it­self.

JOE LED­ERER TWEN­TI­ETH CEN­TURY FOX VIA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“Dead­pool 2” was co-writ­ten by Ryan Reynolds — pic­tured here with Les­lie Uggams — along with Rhett Reese and Paul Wer­nick of “Zom­bieland.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ryan Reynolds is back as the fourth-wall break­ing, wise-crack­ing and ir­rev­er­ent anti-hero Dead­pool in “Dead­pool 2.”

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