“Deadpool” is not so much a movie as an extended inside joke with a movie wrapped around it. Not only does Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) tell his backstory and chase his nemesis while protecting a lost love, he takes shots at Marvel in general and Wolverine in particular while maintaining a string of R-rated monologues on life, the universe, and everything that would send Captain America into spasms of mortification. Through it all, Reynolds apologizes abjectly for “The Green Lantern.”
The plot tells the story of Wade Wilson’s transformation through a torturous quickening process from brutal, unhinged vigilante into a brutal unhinged vigilante with mutant powers. He could always hit hard, swing his katanas with deadly speed, and dodge danger, but after the quickening, he cannot be killed. All wounds heal except the emotional ones.
The film gives Deadpool a lady love, Vanessa (the luminous Morena Baccarin, who at 37 makes a refreshingly age-appropriate match for the 40-year-old Reynolds). Their sexual activity (of which we learn in parent-distressing detail) may be kinky, but their love is surprisingly conservative. His heart is hers and marriage is on his mind.
This is a step away from the maniacal, changing Deadpool of the comics, but it works in the film and gives the main character the motive for his mission of revenge.
From the hilarious frozen-in-time 3D opening sequence, though, the audience is put on notice that this isn’t your normal superhero movie. The spoofy opening credits just reek of smart-ass edginess, which sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the movie. Deadpool knows he is in a movie and has pointed opinions on Marvel and modern life. When he breaks the fourth wall, he crushes it.
The biggest drawback of Deadpool—that is, if you can handle the explicit content—is also his greatest draw: A determined and unapologetic moral ambiguity. Deadpool isn’t a hero, he constantly reminds the audience, he is just a %&!# who beats up worse %&!#s. Lest you think this is all some cover for some coming moral revelation, the final scene explicitly sets up a moral conflict for him to fail.
He gets the question. He gets the moral standard. He chooses not to follow it. The audience is left with the question of how they feel about that. I fear that many will cheer.
The intended audience will certainly cheer for heavy R-rated content. The violence is intense, gleeful, and gory, with heads sprouting red mist left and right. Sexual content is about as far as you can go and still keep an R rating: Graphic nudity, bare boobies and butts, several scenes of actual sex, depictions of masturbation, the works. Of course, the language is what you’d expect. All the words and plenty of talk about obscene things. This is not one for the kiddos.
But you knew that. What you want to know is whether it kicks ass. Yes. It accomplishes its goals, both in humor and in action sequences. The intended audience may be narrower than for “Captain America: Civil War” or “The Avengers,” but that audience will relish this flick. Maybe the degree of that relish is not comforting, but, then again, that is the point.