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Antidote to superheroes

FILM REVIEW: Wisecracking mercenary in latest lampoon Deadpool 2

Trish Lee

Charlie Masters

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886663

Deadpool2

Deadpool 2 (15)
Running time 1hr 59min
Rating: ****

GLEEFULLY ultraviolent, surprisingly tender and outrageously funny, Deadpool was just the kind of antidote cinemagoers needed for a decade of po-faced super-cinema. Pairing the spandex-clad rent-a-thrills of Marvel’s beat-’em-ups with a stoner comedy knack for finding laughs in the murkiest of places, it functioned not only as an unlikely blockbuster, but as a genuine cultural phenomenon, a sick, savvy yin to Tony Stark’s overblown yang.

With hindsight, it was a textbook franchise opener, high on body count, low on plot and bound to exhaust the uninitiated with its gag-a-minute delivery, yet its playful sense of emotional depth, coupled with Ryan Reynolds’ deviously charismatic turn as the psychotic quipster of the title, filled an unexpected niche. Here was a superhero flick in which the katana-wielding lead turned an unfortunate grunt “into a kebab” within the first few minutes of its runtime.

The film appears to have paved the way for a new generation of R-rated comic adaptations, with Venom and The New Mutants due shortly; Deadpool 2 feels rather like a make-or-break attempt to check the audience’s pulse, to clarify whether its predecessor’s success was, indeed, an indication of shifting tastes at the box office or merely a happy, bloody accident. A relentless marketing barrage, doubling down on the first movie’s self-referential brand of caustic irony, has assured every man, woman and child from Tianjin to Timbuktu of the sequel’s coming. Admittedly, said volley of promotions and teaser trailers will not have prepped audiences for a few of the aces Part Deux has up its sleeves (more on those in a jiffy), but you otherwise get a broad idea of what it holds in store for you. The first scene, in which the protagonist literally blows himself to gory smithereens in an effort to ‘outdo’ another beloved screen mutant, should serve to purge multiplexes of the cynical and the easily outraged; fans will, on the other hand, be struggling to hold onto their sides.

Scratch beneath the surface, and the casual viewer will find a weirdly astute cinema. The magic of the Deadpool franchise is in its subversion of our insatiable desire FOR SUBVERSION – just as
Hollywood has created a tedious cultural marketplace trading in attention-deficit set pieces and crass, did-he-just-say-that vulgarity, Reynolds’ wisecracking ninja breaks the mould in refusing to let us wallow in the films’ own gratuity, breaking the fourth wall to rail against the shallowness of its cheap, violent spectacles. Whereas other superhero vehicles have opted for increasingly intricate, overcooked plotting, Deadpool 2’s story is more akin to a domestic tiff on bath salts (our hero actually warns us from the outset that we’re in for a “family film”).

Having been roped into joining the X-Men after a personal tragedy, Deadpool finds himself drawn to Russell (Julian Dennison), a child victimised by the authorities at a demonic mutant reformatory. It’s not long before this unlikely pair find themselves pursued by Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-travelling, dubstep-hating cyborg with a shadowy agenda.

As is to be expected, the film is decidedly more adventurous than its predecessor in terms of its action palette – a second-act raid on a prison convoy makes for an absolute series high-point thus far, being both self-indulgently epic and corrosively funny, yet the whole thing remains decidedly grounded by a madcap sensitivity to human drama. Foul-mouthed and demented as he is, Deadpool has a heart, and he’s keen to remind us between extended fisticuffs with Chinese mobsters and jokes involving toddler legs. The torrent of obnoxious gags is, if anything, even more merciless this time round – some (a FUBAR’d paradrop, a Bond intro parody) hit dangerously hard, some (a joke involving dead pop stars) fall decisively flat and some don’t beggar repetition in a family newspaper. At any rate, it looks like this franchise is here to stay, and while Deadpool 2 doesn’t exactly imbue it with fresh air, it’s just as fast, zany and tasteless as the first film.

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