A fairly funny trashing of its own glib self, "Deadpool" is a movie about an unkillable wisenheimer who never shuts up, even while enduring or inflicting enough putrid brutality to earn an X or a NC-17 rating just a few years ago.
The masked antihero is played by Ryan Reynolds, clearly having the screen time of his life, to date. He sounds strikingly like his fellow Canadian Jim Carrey when he goes into manic-wisecrack mode, riffing on everything from the "Taken" movies to adolescent male lust in relation to the film career of Bernadette Peters. The jokes break the fourth wall and refer back to themselves constantly. There are visual and verbal riffs on Ryan's "sexiest man alive" People magazine cover, and Reynolds' earlier big-screen "Green Lantern" fiasco, among other facets of his lightweight-but-hunky screen image.
"Deadpool," showcasing a character born in a 1991 Marvel Comics "New Mutants" installment, positions itself as the outsider Marvel franchise wannabe, the one that breaks all the rules, daring to make us care about the quasi-human conflicts (cancer, for one) in a sea of nattering sarcasm and merry bloodletting. The movie's far from dull. But first-time feature director Tim Miller's film serves as critique as well an example of what ails the superhero movie industry, as well as for your personal fatigue issues (if you don't have them, good for you) with a film world crammed with Avengers and X-Men and their neighbors.
Reynolds made a brief appearance as a more conventionally palatable Deadpool in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009). With a zigzagging flashback structure, the new film gives us the life and times of mercenary warrior Wade Wilson (Reynolds). His social life is split between beers with bartender pal Weasel (T.J. Miller) and a romance with barkeep/prostitute Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin of "Homeland"). She's identified in the opening credits, cheekily, as "Some Hot Chick." Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick identify themselves in the same credits as "The Real Heroes Here."
Early on, Wilson learns he has late-stage cancer. Desperate for a cure, he hooks up with the sadistic scientist Ajax (Ed Skrein) who subjects Wilson to a series of torture sequences. Cancer's gone, but so is his face and skin as he knew them, and not even immortality can make up for it. Deadpool, a sociopath wearing one of Spider-Man's knockoff head stockings, is born, and the rest of "Deadpool" grows into an increasingly routine revenge fantasy.
As with "Guardians of the Galaxy," which was rated PG-13, the grungier, potty-mouthier "Deadpool" benefits from a sardonic tone. Nothing in the Marvel/DC Comics film galaxies bores me more than apocalyptic combat that grinds on somewhere between "forever" and "a day." The movie can only avoid all that for so long. But at least it starts somewhere new. And Reynolds is entertaining; it's rather sweet to see this eternally not-quite-a-star get closer than usual to justifying star billing.
MPAA rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity).
Running time: 1:48