"DEADPOOL 2" — 3 stars — Josh Brolin, Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz; R (strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material ); in general release
There's something unique about a film franchise that seems to exist exclusively to lampoon all the tropes that run wild through our current Age of Comic Book Movies. If you're already familiar with the first film or the nature of the character at the center of all this, none of this will be a surprise, but many audiences will cringe at the constant vulgarity and R-rated profanity, which is abrasive even in a comic context.
David Leitch's "Deadpool 2" marks the next chapter in the adventures of the most colorful and dysfunctional character in the Marvel stable. The 2016 film gave us the origin story for the cancer-ridden immortal antihero assassin, and according to Ryan Reynolds' opening narration, "Deadpool 2" is all about family.
But when Reynolds talks about "Deadpool 2" being a family film, he's being cheeky, and parents probably should think twice before giving their teenagers the green light on this one.
We pick up the story with Deadpool (Reynolds) loving life as a full-time assassin, wiping out scores of Mafiosi and Yakuza mobsters with violent abandon. He's also got a nice home life going with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and the two of them are thinking about starting a family. But let's just say that Deadpool's day job makes that aspiration … problematic (if that sounds vague, it's because I'm trying to dance around a significant spoiler).
Following a James Bond parody of an opening title sequence, Deadpool is in a suicidal state, searching for meaning. Meaning presents itself in the form of Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), a mutant who tries to recruit Deadpool into the X-Men, but as you might imagine, it's not a natural fit. When Deadpool begrudgingly joins the squad to help a wayward young mutant named Russell ("Hunt for the Wilderpeople's" Julian Dennison), things go badly enough to land Deadpool and Russell in a special mutant prison called the Ice Box, where prisoners are forced to wear power-repressing collars.
Enter Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-traveling cyborg assassin from the future who has come to kill Russell. After a showdown at the prison, Deadpool discovers his purpose: protect Russell. Unfortunately, Russell isn't too keen on being protected.
In a way, setting up the plot for "Deadpool 2" kind of misses the point. The film has a plot and even tries to imbue it with some meaning — although the snark does make the more sincere moments a little harder to buy. But this is a film that is meant to be a change of pace from your run-of-the-mill superhero movie — kind of an R-rated "Guardians of the Galaxy."
From the opening credits to the bonus scenes that pepper the closing credits, "Deadpool" is a constant stream of wisecracking pop culture references, irreverent vulgarity and fourth-wall-breaking goofiness, mixed in with an array of comic violent action sequences set to a soundtrack jammed with Air Supply, Cher and most any artist you would explicitly not expect to be featured in a movie like this.
The whole thing is a showcase for Reynolds, who makes Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man seem politely amusing by comparison. The script is loaded with inside jokes — snide references to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine (the "other" R-rated superhero), constant references to the film's production and even references to the other actors involved. (At one point, Deadpool calls Cable "One-Eyed Willie," a sly nod to "Goonies," one of Brolin's early films.)
The constant humor makes the over-the-top violence easier to take (as opposed to last year's "Logan," it's a lot more on the Monty Python end of the spectrum than, say, the "Goodfellas" end). But comic or not, it's far beyond PG-13 bloody, such as in an outrageous sequence where Deadpool heads into battle with a rag-tag group of recruits that includes the perpetually lucky Domino (Zazie Beetz), a regular guy named Peter (Rob Delaney) who literally walked in off the street and a surprise cameo I won't spoil here.
"Deadpool 2" won't suit everyone's palette, but love it or hate it, there's nothing else like it on the menu.
"Deadpool 2" is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material
running time: 119 minutes.