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Thursday, May 17, 2018 12:04 am

For good or ill, Deadpool 2 delivers more of the same

 

One of the secrets to the success of the character Deadpool is that he is the ultimate vicarious instrument. Much like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, he says what we’d like to say and responds to crises in a violent, straightforward manner. These characters are not handcuffed by the social niceties most of us feel compelled to obey. There’s no filter where they’re concerned, and we can’t help but revel in the catharsis provided by these two as they buck the rules.

While the Dirty Harry films and others of their ilk required that viewers admire their characters’ rebellious behavior from a distance, Deadpool and its sequel invite the audience to be as much a part of the mayhem as possible. The “Merc with a Mouth” breaks the fourth wall continually to allow the audience to be on equal footing with him, a partner-in-crime to all the mayhem that ensues.

It’s this approach as well as its ironic humor and copious amounts of violence that propelled the first Deadpool to a worldwide gross of nearly $800 million. Part 2 contains more of the same, this time upping the ante where supporting characters are concerned. From the start, mauled mercenary and resident smartass Deadpool lets us know that his second foray on the big screen is a family film. And technically, he’s right, as it focuses on the titular character taking a bunch of misfit mutants under his wing, though this band of outsiders is more likely to inadvertently raze a city block than sit down for a meal together.

The plot revolves around Russell (Julian Dennison), a teenage mutant who cannot control his powers, who Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, grinning all the way to the bank) decides to mentor and ends up in a jail for super-humans for his trouble. Along the way, our anti-hero crosses paths – or not, in a brief and hilarious cameo involving the X-Men – with a wide variety of mutants, creates a group with a limited shelf-life (X-Force), and provides snarky commentary on all things pop culture along the way.

Two new characters share a great deal of time with Deadpool, one of them making an auspicious debut, the other just taking up so much space. Domino’s power is that she’s lucky … you read that right, she’s lucky, and it holds her in good stead as chaos rains down around her. Like a modern-day Buster Keaton, she’s the calm in the middle of every storm, blissfully unaware of just how far her good fortune goes in saving her skin. Zazie Beetz steals every scene she’s in as Domino, her innocence a welcome respite to the heavy-handed cynicism that abounds. Josh Brolin’s Cable is less successful in winning us over or proving to be unique. Cut from the same cloth as The Terminator, he’s a warrior that’s traveled back in time to kill Russell, who he claims is responsible for the death of his family and thousands of others. The character is an obvious knock-off and is so poorly written that the actor simply can’t bring any life to him.

My response to this entry is much the same as it was to the first. This is a one-joke exercise (Deadpool’s a smartass) that spins wildly out of control, propelled by a constant stream of condescending snarky comments that get old, fast. The first half-hour struggles to recreate the energy of the first and only eventually finds its stride. Equally objectionable is the brand of violence on display, all far too realistic for the romp that this is. It jars with the humor and never really gels.

I will say that the cameos are inventive and the post-credit moments are among the best I’ve seen, with Reynolds throwing himself on a post-modern bonfire that’s genuinely clever and funny. Too bad the rest of the movie panders to its audience, delivering one obvious gag after another, rather than employing any genuine wit or brains.

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