Netflix UK film review: Deadpool
Actual subversive content5
Ivan Radford | On 14, Jun 2016
Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein
Watch Deadpool online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Superhero movies. They’re all the same. Aren’t they? Action movies starring the world’s sexiest man directed by some overpaid tool and produced by asshats. The opening credits of Deadpool alone make it clear that this isn’t one of those movies. Sort of.
For those in the back who only just came in, let us explain how this works. There’s a film called Deadpool and we’re writing a review to explain what we think of it. Then, you read it and say to yourself, “Wow, what a wittily written piece of writing explaining what that magazine thinks of that movie! Now, where was that cat video I was watching?” (Spoiler alert: We enjoyed it. You might as well skip to the final sentence now.)
Deadpool is full of interruptions like that. Not cat videos – although you wouldn’t bet against it – but self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking asides. Forget the stunts and fights: the talking alone breaks so many walls it’s like a feature-length adaptation of that Levi jeans advert. You know, the one with the walls? You can YouTube it if you were born after 1998. Sorry, we’re doing it again.
That constant cycle of digressions should be annoying, and it probably would be in the hands of anyone other than Ryan Reynolds, but the actor – who has already proven there’s more to him than Van Wilder: Party Liaison with The Voices and Adventureland – is on fire here. Literally: at one point, he’s on fire.
Reynolds sinks balls in holes, both verbally and physically, at motormouth speed; his non-stop jabbering is puerile, immature and offensive, but it’s also frequently funny.
That proves the secret to Deadpool’s deplorable charm and, like his red suit (chosen to hide the blood), it helps to cover up the nasty bits. The script, by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, feels like a follow-up to Zombieland as much as an adaptation of the Marvel comic: the writers’ hallmarks of ultra-violence, blokey humour and pop culture references are all present and correct. Some of the quips fail to land, but so many are thrown at the screen (along with, at one point, chewing gum) that you almost don’t notice.
“You’re coming to see Professor Xavier,” orders Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), an also-ran X-Men, trying to recruit Deadpool to the good side. “McAvoy or Stewart?” comes the reply. Even the fact that Colossus is a budget reject from Marvel’s more expensive blockbusters is a target.
When it’s on Green Lantern-bashing, Hugh Jackman-hating form, Deadpool works, with Reynolds more than happy to send himself up. That enthusiasm helps to make Deadpool a likeable lead, given how shallow and horrible he inherently is; the script has to wheel out a parade of things worse than him to make him seem sympathetic, from cancer and cruel government agents to stalkers and Ed Skrein’s sadistic Francis, who spends most of the runtime torturing our hero.
But while the film is all too open to mocking its token British villain and prides itself on having a protagonist who’s essentially a bad guy, there’s nothing really subversive going on here: for all its post-modern flourishes, Deadpool adheres rigidly to convention, right down to the fantastic Morena Baccarin being cast as Vanessa, aka. the typical hooker trope that so many films love to fall back on. It’s that kind of detail that gives you an underlying suspicion that Deadpool is playing it safe – despite the director insisting Mr. Pool is pansexual, one bedroom scene that sees the couple switch roles is accompanied by disclaimers from our hero, presumably to make sure he doesn’t lose masculine points with the fans. Changing Vanessa to a boyfriend? That would be a genuinely subversive move, given how conservative comic book movies have been so far. Questioning the nature of the violence, a la Kick-Ass, which managed the tricky balance of both satirising and celebrating superheroes, would be brave. Deadpool, though, isn’t radical: it’s just rude.
Even the targets it picks feel vaguely tame – when was the last time you saw a comic book movie with a token British villain? Or laughed at the fact that teenagers are grumpy? (Hello to Brianna Hildebrand as mopey sidekick Negasonic Teenage Warhead.) Superhero films have arguably struggled to enter the modern age, with female heroes only just showing signs of emerging on the big screen. Rather than question that, though, Deadpool merely perpetuates outdated cliches.
But if you can accept this movie as the non-radical romp it is, there’s still much to entertain, from Reynolds’ wise-cracking presence to the carnage he causes: the opening set piece, which is examined in detail before we rewind to see it unfold, is inventive, disturbing and highly amusing. If only the same were true of the whole thing. Fortunately, though, Deadpool unfolds at such a pace that there’s little time to dwell on its flaws – it’s the ideal popcorn flick for those seeking sweary, super-powered violence with a short attention span.
In other words, if you skipped to the final sentence, good news: you’ll love it.
Deadpool is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.