5 Reasons 'Deadpool' Is Headed for Cult Status
The first scene in the unabashedly R-rated Deadpool freezes the gun-toting, spandex-clad hero inside an out-of-control SUV, as it tumbles in super slo-mo. Deadpool, it seems, is a multi-tasker; he gouges out a bad guy's eyes, stuffs a cigarette lighter down another's throat, and watches a just-fired bullet plow through a third goon's skull. But just when you think this might seem gratuitous, the opening credits roll: "Starring God's Perfect Idiot!", "Produced by Asshats!", "Directed by an Overpaid Tool!"
This movie is not taking itself seriously. But should you?
Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds as a loudmouthed mercenary, is intoxicated by excess and determined to pleasure the niche audience that loves the character from Marvel Comics. And I do mean loves. My theater was packed with men and women dressed in their finest Deadpool-branded threads. They laughed at every joke and cackled at every kill. These are people who love Deadpool. I'm agnostic. You're probably the same way.
Still, for the action addicted, the risk-taking film is worth a look. Here's why Deadpool can't be lumped in with Iron Man, Batman, or other caped-crusading fluff designed to please the masses.
1. Deadpool doubles down on the profane
Deadpool is Cards Against Humanity come to life. The "jokes" are sick, the jokes are cruel, the jokes... aren't really jokes. Saying "sandpaper dildo" doesn't have a punchline. But Ryan Reynolds can work with that. The actor spent nearly a decade waiting for his chance to play Deadpool; the character even appears in crude form in 2009's horrid X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Truthfully, it's the perfect role. Reynolds has built a career out of mouthing off, and Deadpool rattles off one-liners like he's cranking a gatling gun. Deadpool's physicality becomes a source of comedy, too -- a scene where the regenerating hero breaks all four appendages is like a lost scene from Roger Rabbit or The Mask. Reynolds is quick on every trigger.
If only each joke moved like a bullet. Turns out, the 18th testicle reference isn't as funny as the first. Referring to his bald-headed sidekick Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) as "Sinéad O'Connor" is an insult time-warped in from 1990. There are ace wisecracks spat out over the course of Deadpool, but they're swept up in an assault of "shits," "damns," and "fucks." I sound like a prude. But this is swear comedy from fifth grade, not sly comedy. Reynolds can, and has, done better, and the hired comedy relief, Silicon Valley's T.J. Miller, barely gets a word in.
2. The movie spills blood. So much blood.
Wolverine, Cyclops, and the rest of the X-Men have powers that could easily slice up a powerless human. For whatever reason, they never do. Deadpool is the counter, an antihero who actually wields his swords, shoots his guns, and takes lethal hits (though, thanks to mutant genes, he repairs instantaneously). The mayhem is vapid. Suited up, Reynolds double-flips over cars to dispense three bad guys with a single shot. He's a cartoon in the real world that never goes crazy enough.
Bloodless battles turn out to be the most fun. Halfway through the movie, a deformed, naked Reynolds fights the big bad, stock British villain Ajax (Ed Skrein), inside a burning building. The brawl is focused and ludicrous. The stakes are thin, but for a fleeting moment, existent. It's giddy, mano a mano carnage. These moments are rare in Deadpool, a movie that's always on the lookout for bloodshed, and peaks when our hero cuts his own hand off (complete with 127 Hours joke). Can't fault the risk-taking.
3. Its fourth wall was built to be broken
Kick-Ass spoofed the modern superhero movie back in 2010. Deadpool shanks the genre's pants, points, and laughs. Sticking to his source material's meta humor, the movie jabs everything from Reynolds' disastrous Green Lantern movie, his previous Wolverine appearance, the Blade franchise (the actor was in that, too!), and the current X-Men movie universe. It's gleeful inside baseball; when summoned by Professor X, Deadpool wonders, "McAvoy or Stewart?" Cue, laughter from the eight people on top of their comic book blockbusters enough to get the joke.
Deadpool is a joy when reflecting and subverting well-treaded tropes... and then it takes a step too far. This is a movie with a fourth wall-break inside a fourth wall-break. In character, Deadpool calls it out. But that doesn't negate the fact that the movie's choking on its own gimmick.
4. Ryan Reynolds still squeezes life out of the character
An unpopular opinion: Reynolds is a great performer who just can't catch a break. See Mississippi Grind, see The Voices, see Just Friends, see Adventureland, see Smokin' Aces, hell, see Van Wilder. The guy can act. And, despite Deadpool parading vulgarities like they're circus elephants, he brings a ton of compassion and manic energy to Wade Wilson, the man behind the mask.
In a short stretch of movie, we see Wade fall hard for Morena Baccarin's Vanessa, discover that he has terminal cancer, and then watch Stock British Guy ruin his life with a mutation-provoking treatment. When Deadpool jumps into action, he's a one-trick pony. Reynolds is the real hero, bringing more pizzazz to the role than any of Marvel's current leading men.
5. Deadpool targets the immature
The current run of comic-book movies are what we call "four-quadrant" blockbusters. They're for all ages, all genders, all races, anyone and everyone who can be remotely entertained. Deadpool defies the formula. It is a movie squarely aimed at 15-year-old boys, or 30-year-old men pining for the days of Duke Nukem, tough guy Tazmanian Devil t-shirts, and South Park catch-phrases. There's an air of '90s regression to it. Deadpool is that guy still shocked that a girl -- one played by MMA fighter Gina Carano, to be exact -- could hit him so hard. Really. Look, investing in the exploits of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man is inherently childish. Audiences make a pact to allow it: if it's larger than life, aware of its own silliness, we can buy into the kid-friendly adventure. But Deadpool slapping a blind woman in the face with a freshly regenerated baby hand? C'mon, we're grown-ups.
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Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment Editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. He has read a single Deadpool comic. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.