Deadpool 2: If you like action and postmodernism, roll up
Review: Ryan Reynolds’s relish for the role is, mostly, passed on to the audience
Ryan Reynolds and Brianna Hildebrand in Deadpool 2: piling on the pop-cultural switchbacks
Film Title: Deadpool 2
Director: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand, Julian Dennison, Stefan Kapicic, T J Miller, Terry Crews
Running Time: 120 min
Maybe a degree of Stockholm Syndrome has set in. Perhaps it’s just relief that we won’t have to watch any more of the infuriatingly arch pre-release publicity. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of accepting the futility of resistance. But, for at least one Deadpool sceptic, the sequel grinded its self-references just a little less irritatingly than the horrible first film.
Don’t get me wrong. Deadpool 2 is still second-guessing criticism and piling on the pop-cultural switchbacks. Virtually the first thing you see is our anti-hero preparing for his own self-inflicted immolation to the undercutting strains of I’m All Out of Love by Air Supply. (There’s real pain in here, but it’s always a bit of a joke too.)
If you didn’t already know a statistic concerning the film’s box-office performance versus The Passion of the Christ then that is also laid out for you. If you like to watch an entertainment disappear up its own low-res post-modernism then the new film will not disappoint.
David Leitch’s picture may, however, also prove tolerable to those in search of a well-staged action sequence that isn’t afraid to do things to the participants that hurt (or look as if they do). After the enormous intergalactic chaos of Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 offers something just a little like clarity.
This is not to pretend that the story makes any sense. The picture begins with an awful tragedy that propels Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) – indestructible alter-ego of Wade Wilson – into a state of unendurable despair. Following that failed attempt to blow himself up, one of the larger X-Men intervenes and brings him back to the Xavier mansion for rehabilitation.
You can guess how that works. Called to help calm down a young mutant named Russell Collins, whose fists burn like coals, he manages to blow away Russell’s (admittedly appalling) principal and ends up in prison with the delinquent mutant. Meanwhile, time-travelling malcontent Cable (confusingly played by Thanos himself, Josh Brolin) is drifting menacingly towards the two pals with destruction on his mind.
Depending on your appetite for this stuff, the constant self-reference and breaking of the fourth wall is either a shameful cheat or a release from the sameness of the superhero template.
It’s probably a bit of both and Reynolds’s relish is, for the most part, passed on to the audience. This time round, they have, thank goodness, somewhat toned down the recreational sexism. Maybe that’s why it feels a bit less grating.