By Noah Howard
In what will inevitably be a question on Jeopardy in the year 2068, tough-guy Josh Brolin has appeared as two villains in two superhero movies in the same year. Both are inspired by Marvel Comics and are still playing in theaters.
Somehow, Josh Brolin’s role as Cable in “Deadpool 2” makes the hulking purple madman he plays in “Infinity War” seem realistic and grounded. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) shatters the fourth-wall, telling us to disregard all of Cable’s backstory, to not even bother looking it up on a wiki. He’s right, of course. Thankfully, “Deadpool 2” spends little time trudging through the history of a modified super-assassin from the far future.
Indeed, “Deadpool 2” is a movie that, unlike its predecessor, is no-nonsense in getting down to the nonsense. It doesn’t dwell on complex origin stories or mediocre attempts at deep characterization. It has the pacing of a sitcom and the sense of humor of an adolescent. It has a straightforward plot (Deadpool wants to save a kid that Cable is hunting) and a cameo-filled cast of lovable characters. “Deadpool 2” tells us that it’s a “family film,” and if not for the gratuitous violence, a flurry of f-words and bathroom-worthy sex jokes, it would be.
The quick-talking anti-hero’s reputation precedes him. Even those who haven’t seen the original film or read the comics are at least dimly aware of his sense of humor. Deadpool’s ultra-fast healing ability allows him to shake off gunshot wounds like paintballs, so he flounces and skips through brutal combat. He is probably smiling underneath his bright red mask. The audience can’t help but maintain a smile too; most of the film’s jokes are so appallingly stupid or such blatant cheap shots (the film even insults its own “lazy writing” twice) that one cannot help but laugh.
“Deadpool 2” compliments its levity with scenes of gut-wrenching (sometimes literally) violence, utterly gratuitous in all the best ways. Director David Leitch (of “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde” fame) understands Tarantino’s golden rule — with the right timing, even a brutal death can be utterly hilarious. He puts this rule to good use over and over again, killing cannon-fodder thugs by rolling their heads across tables, smashing their skulls with falling bookcases and impaling them with a cream cheese knife. All the while, Deadpool sarcastically complains that there’s blood in his eye.
The action is smooth as silk, beautifully choreographed and paced in such a way that would make Jackie Chan smile. Visual gags meet gore on a canvas of slow-mo and random dubstep. Its intentionally disparate parts unite to create a distinct sense of somewhat-sick style.
“Deadpool 2” rounds out its humor and action with a cast of adorably lovable characters; TJ Miller and Karan Soni (who play Deadpool’s close friends, returning from the first film) are as innocently charming as ever, and newcomer Julian Dennison delivers a solid, endearing performance as Cable’s aforementioned target. He gives the movie a surprising amount of heart.
Nevertheless, the film does occasionally shoot itself in the foot. Like the first film, it tries to combine tragedy and comedy, but fails. A death that’s meant to be heartbreaking feels rushed and forced. Ultimately, this strategy is futile, as Deadpool is a walking joke. He doesn’t fit into the “sad clown” archetype, so these tragic moments are jarring tonal disruptions in an otherwise emotion-light film.
Luckily, for the majority of the film, the tragedy that haunts Deadpool is tossed away like a stray bullet. Instead, we can focus on the film’s glorious action, childish humor and delightful characters. “Deadpool 2” is raw, R-rated immature fun, designed to make adults feel like kids again. In this sense, it’s more accurate than a slug from Cable’s futuristic rifle — it hits its mark every time.
Contact Noah Howard at noah364 ‘at’ stanford.edu.