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Friday, June 1, 2018

Deadpool 2 Movie Review

Deadpool 2 Movie Review
The Color of Funny

Battle-scarred and snarky, everyone's favorite costumed antihero Deadpool is back in action in the straightforwardly titled sequel, "Deadpool 2." If you saw the first "Deadpool," you know what to expect here: pitch black humor, plenty of meta-moments, and a fast-paced storyline that's long on violence but can't quite hide its surprisingly sentimental heart. The makers of "Deadpool 2" could have simply replicated these elements from the original 2016 crowd-pleaser and come away with another smash that would keep fans happy by giving them more of the same - but they didn't. With a gonzo energy that somehow outdoes the breakneck original and a dizzying disregard for the tenents of traditional superhero storytelling, "Deadpool 2" plays fast and loose with timelines, pummels the fourth wall to pieces, and manages to up the ante in a story that lives up to the original and then surpasses it with gleeful ease.

It's best to go into the first few minutes of this one with no expectations of what's about to happen, so let's skip ahead to the main plot: Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, "The Hitman's Bodyguard"), aka Wade Wilson, joins forces with X-Men second-stringers Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to intervene when a teenaged boy with mutant powers rebels against the orphanage where he's been held and abused, thus setting himself on a path as a potential killer in the making. Wade becomes a grudging protector to Russell (Julian Dennison, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople") aka Firefist, and tries to save him when grimly determined cyborg Cable (Josh Brolin, "Only the Brave") arrives from the future with righteous murder on his mind.

It's fairly standard stuff for a superhero story, but "Deadpool 2" uses this foundation as a springboard to let its hero mouth off hilariously, drop a staggering array of witty pop-culture references (I caught brisk asides on Harry Potter, "The Goonies," comics artist Rob Liefeld, and "The Human Centipede," to name just a few; others are too good to give away here), and anarchically upend many of the timeworn tropes that usually punctuate the genre. Mr. Reynolds was superb in the first film but here he surpasses himself, elevating glibness to a new artform that renders our hero's mouth a lethal weapon against enemies and comrades alike. He's equally effective at selling the self-consciously smarmy - wielding a boom-box to ape John Cusak's famous courting scene in "Say Anything" - and the pensively metaphysical, as the film heads in a between-worlds direction that further differentiates it from its predecessor.

What hasn't changed from the first outing is the presence of strong supporting players who both ground Mr. Reynolds's performance and give him lots to play off of. The venerable Leslie Uggams (Roots) returns to gamely play Wade's mysterious roommate Blind Al, and Karan Soni is back to gee-whiz his way amiably through the film as taxi driver turned would-be sidekick Dopinder. Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) is a strong new addition as Domino, who finds her way to Deadpool's crew through a help wanted ad and can hold her own against his perpetual banter. The film has a blast with a slew of other hopefuls who show up for the gig - again, it's too good to give it away, but be on the lookout for a couple of fun cameos.

Opposite Deadpool's cynical clowning is the glowering, mission-driven Cable. Mr. Brolin takes a solid run at the role, providing some depth to a character that initially seems determinedly one-dimensional. But as his backstory is sketched in a fuller picture emerges, and Mr. Brolin manages to elicit sympathy while remaining an appropriately humorless rock in the midst of a madcap maelstrom. Also balancing a couple of opposing goals is Mr. Dennison, who is at turns sweet, awkward, funny, and frightening as the young mutant just coming into his own powers and learning some hard lessons about morality and family.

"Deadpool 2" is clever at weaving in those messages about family and choices and consequences, but it's never unwittingly heavy-handed, and it doesn't hit pause for more than a moment or two to deliver its points. It's like a two-hour roller coaster set in a funhouse where you're never sure if you're going to see someone deliver a punchline or a punch. Do be warned: as this sequel ups the ante on the comedy front, it also dials up the violence, with fights that are longer, more extreme, and rendering some particularly grisly injuries. But if you can get past that it's great fun, with an infectious energy that makes this another one of those offerings that you really ought to see in a theater with a revved up crowd. Oh, and do get there early and prepare to stay until the last minute, because as much as "Deadpool 2" rewrites the book on genre films, it absolutely tears up that book when it comes to opening and closing credits. Bravo, team!

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