We have, of course, met Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool before – facing off against Hugh Jackman in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) with retractable swords melded into his arms and, in an inexcusably left field creative decision, his mouth sewn shut. The 'Merc with a Mouth' reduced to simply the Merc, his character immediately rendered impotent. Thankfully his latest outing heals those old wounds with a wildly entertaining, balls out origin story.
This is an altogether different Deadpool (and much closer to the comic books) – a relentlessly self-referential and quick witted antihero with a fondness for breaking the fourth wall. The film may be set in the same universe as the X-Men franchise, but it has an anarchic spirit that flips the bird to Bryan Singer's (X-Men: Days Of Future Past) serious sensibilities. And smirks to itself as it does so.
The film starts with Wade Wilson already having chosen his superhero name, in costume and midway through a scrap on a freeway. From there the story is interspersed with flashbacks showing him pre-disfiguring mutation, falling in love, being diagnosed with terminal cancer, through to being tortured by Ed Skrein's (Ill Manors) main antagonist Ajax. It is a smart structure, one that neatly sidesteps the major issue with origin stories – the main attraction being absent for the first hour.
In this case, because of the way his backstory is laid out before you, it also disguises how slight the main mission is. But Deadpool is a perfect example of a character who doesn't need world threatening danger to foil. Wolverine or Superman require something interesting to do – for the most part, what Deadpool is up to is less important than the quips he makes as he is doing it.
The film is arguably at its best in the moments of meta humour – Deadpool wondering whether it will be James McAvoy or Patrick Stewart in charge at the X-Mansion, or bemoaning the budgetary reasons that mean the only two X-Men he ever gets to actually meet are metallic giant Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and sullen youngster Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). But its comedic currency tends to the less cerebral, and your reaction to the relentless stream of politically incorrect zingers will arguably depend on how high Van Wilder: Party Liaison (2002) is on your list of favourite Ryan Reynolds films.
With comic book films currently so popular, and after Green Lantern (2011) failed to ignite a franchise for him, it is obvious why Ryan Reynolds has tried again. Largely covered in either a mask or heavy prosthetics, Reynolds is terrific, relishing the filthy, frantic nature of it all. Morena Baccarin (Homeland) makes her potentially cliched 'hooker with a heart' feel real, while Gina Carano (Fast & Furious 6) and Skrein are both more than capable of fulfilling their action duties.
Shaven haired Hildebrand (First Girl I Loved) manages the sullen teenager act well too, while Stan Lee's ubiquitous cameo is an X-rated gratuitous gem.
Only Colossus is a little disappointing, with the digital effects almost as cumbersome as he is. That aside, Deadpool ultimately fulfils its primary mission – pricking the super egos of Hollywood's comic book blockbusters. It certainly won't be to all tastes – which is kind of the point – but it puts its money where its 'Merc with a Mouth' is.
Loud, lewd, inventive and outrageous, Deadpool is a delirious delight. Cue the music!