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Deadpool 2 Is The Irreverent Superhero Movie You’ve Been Waiting For

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In the aftermath of a personal tragedy and a failed suicide attempt, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is restored to something approximating his “normal” self by Colossus (Stefan Kapicic). Before long, they join forces to intervene when mutant orphan (and human flame-thrower) Randall (Julian Dennison) starts wreaking havoc on his orphanage. After Deadpool and Randall form an unlikely bond, the Terminator-like Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives on the scene, determined to kill the orphan, in order to avenge and/or prevent a future act of violence. Feeling protective of his troubled new pal and inspired to fulfill his unrealized paternal potential, Deadpool decides to protect Randall—with the help of a dysfunctional new band of superheroes known as X-Force.

For many viewers, 2016’s Deadpool felt like a breath of fresh air, reinvigorating the increasingly stale superhero subgenre with self-referential humour and all the bad taste an R-rating allows. Fan favourite status notwithstanding, a case could be made that director Tim Miller was a little clumsy with all that excess and indulgence, creating a world of never-ending bad taste that too closely mirrors the sensibilities of the title character. For the shock and thrill of Deadpool’s irreverence to work, he needs to be a disruptive force in an ordered, normally functioning world. By bombarding viewers with irreverence in all aspects of the film, Miller actually undermines the title character’s gestures in that direction.

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Enter director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), a skilled craftsman who gives Deadpool 2 the tonal and visual control that was lacking the first time around. Whereas Deadpool was haywire and undisciplined in every way, giving it the scattershot inauthenticity of a comedy sketch, Deadpool 2 feels like a real movie, creating a more suitable canvas for convention breaking and subversion. Rather than repress our hero, this gives new impact to his rebellious antics. Leitch’s discipline also gives the film dramatic credibility, increasing our investment in the story and creating a real sense of consequence when things go haywire—and things definitely go haywire… repeatedly.

While it’s tempting to simply list Deadpool 2’s best jokes, shocks, and other flourishes, the film’s sense of surprise is its greatest virtue. In spite of the aforementioned upgrades, Reynolds and company make no sacrifice in the laugh department, mining a wide range of references (Frozen, Say Anything…, 9 to 5,  Canada, the real Ryan Reynolds, various superheroes, even Barbara Streisand’s Yentl) for comic effect. In spite of Leitch’s more sophisticated approach, he clearly understands the value of well-placed indulgence—from dismemberment to gratuitous sexual innuendo—retaining the anything goes spirit of the original, but with a newfound confidence and assurance.

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Of the new cast members, Atlanta‘s Zazie Beetz proves to be the real standout, playing the cool, calm, collected, and extremely lucky Domino. As Cable, the always-reliable Josh Brolin gets the job done, but he’s the subdued straight man to Reynolds’ unhinged centre of attention. If you came out of the original with mixed feelings, there’s a good chance Reynolds’ smug, obnoxious take on Deadpool was simply too irritating to abide. Somewhat miraculously, this film’s very slight course correction has made the character—and Reynolds’ performance—far more palatable. Like nearly everything in Deadpool 2, this is an evolution that few fans were demanding, but nearly everyone will appreciate.

Deadpool 2 is in theatres now. Check out the trailer below.