Producer: Simon Kinburg, Ryan Reynolds and Laura Shuler Donner
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni, Leslie Uggams, Eddie Marsan, Jack Kesy, Bill Skarsgard, Terry Crews, Lewis Tan and Rob Delaney
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
If you were taken with the first “Deadpool,” rest assured that the sequel will not disappoint: it offers more of the same—much more. A wild, non-stop avalanche of snarky humor and grossly comic violence, replete with throwaway pop culture references, the overstuffed “Deadpool 2” will appeal especially to fanboy types, but even those who haven’t picked up a comic book in decades may eventually be battered into submission by the barrage served up by scripters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (with an assist from star Ryan Reynolds) and director David Leitch. There are things in it that don’t work as well as they did the first time around—the goofily self-deprecatory opening credits, for example, which now feel like a tired retread—but overall it’s an improvement on its predecessor, even if it remains a patently obvious effort to adhere to the template of the superhero genre while pretending to subvert it.
In the first act Deadpool, the super-cocky alter-ego of Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), dies. Of course since he’s subject to automatic rejuvenation as a result of the scientific experiment that also left him terribly scarred, his death can’t be permanent, but it does allow him to explain his suicidal impulses by casting back his memory a few weeks to a time when he was happily ensconced with his lovely fiancée Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and keeping busy by wiping out a gang of mobsters. Unfortunately, that mission led to tragedy that ended his desire to live, though his friend Colossus (Stefan Kapičić), who’s also trying to recruit him for the X-Men squad, tries to revive his perverted sense of mission.
Finally Deadpool agrees to become an X-Man trainee, but in his very assignment he proves insubordinate, siding with Russell (Julian Dennison), a chubby young mutant rebelling against abusive treatment in his orphanage by using his inflammatory powers (he calls himself “Firefist”), against the institution’s director (Eddie Marsan). As a result Wade and Russell are clamped into prison, where. Rendered helpless by power-cancelling necklaces, they find themselves in danger from hostile inmates.
That threat proves negligible, however, beside the one posed by Cable (Josh Brolin, who has become, on the evidence of “Infinity War” and now this, the go-to guy for superhero villains), a time=travelling hunk who arrives, like the Terminator, to eradicate Russell for some as-yet unexplained reason. Wilson does battle with him, escapes in the process, and along with his bartender pal Weasel (T.J. Miller, who may be unavailable for publicity purposes because of his real-life legal problems but is still pretty funny), recruits a team of his own that he names X-Force to rescue the boy. After an amusing interview he selects Domino (Zazie Beetz), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Vanisher (Brad Pitt. We’re told) and a simple schlub named Peter (Rob Delaney). Their initial attempt does not go well, and unleashes the brutal Juggnaut as another antagonist. In the final reel Colossus will also reenter the fray, along with his colleague Megasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and her girlfriend Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna).
Saying much more than this about the plot would spoil things for audiences who come to the picture blissfully ignorant of the details, so suffice it to say that the twists bring with them loads of snappy patter (a lot of it composed of groaners, but they’re often accompanied by self-knowing winks, and they’re often followed by a remark that hits the target, even if in a juvenile way) as well as an equal amount of bloodshed, though all of it is supposed to be humorously over-the-top (and in a sequence focusing on X-Force, it certainly is that, even borrowing from “Fargo”). Reynolds delivers it all in that conceited frat-boy style he’s made his own, and Brolin adds heft as Cable. Among the other players Dennison, who was so charming in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” holds his own, and Beetz is certainly an asset. Nobody else matters much; even Leslie Uggams, who repeats as Blind Al, has little to do, though Marsan brings his usual sliminess to his role. There are a number of cameos by some of the X-Men that will please those in the know; a reference to another superhero in the last of a series of post-credits clips provides the biggest laugh in the movie, so you’re advised to stick around for it.
Unfortunately, the screenplay occasionally tries to add some serious underpinnings to the mix, and it’s here that things turn flat. Both Deadpool and Cable, you see, have emotional burdens to carry, and whenever they’re laid on too heavily, the picture loses its spark. Happily it always recovers quickly, but suffers some damage in the process. Technically all is well, though admittedly when the movie is one long riff on the genre you’re likely to be a bit more tolerant of any minor glitches in effects and cinematography (the latter by Jonathan Sela), which you might assume are planned rather than accidental. A trio of editors—Craig Alpert, Elisabet Ronaldsdóttir and Dirk Westervelt—keep the action moving at a good clip, bringing the movie in under two hours. And Tyler Bates’s score is less annoying than is usual in superhero flicks.
“Deadpool 2” can’t match the surprise quotient of the first movie, of course, but by providing more of the same it should satisfy fans and maybe win a few more converts.
More important for Fox, it also provides ample opportunity for further installments.