‘Deadpool 2’ – Reynolds wrap makes it shine
When it was released in 2016, "Deadpool" was a much-needed pinprick to the inflated Marvel Universe, most notably the self-important "X-Men" franchise that was then seven films in and had begun to show its wear and tear.
Largely thanks to its star/producer Ryan Reynolds, "Deadpool" was just the boundary-defying kick to the nards that was needed. Edgy, graphic, and filled with Reynolds' whip-smart wit, "Deadpool" contained all that the previous "Wolverine" stand-alone vehicles lacked.
Audiences made it rain, tossing out their cash and making it a smash hit, which inevitably led us to "Deadpool 2." Where the first was marked by its surprise, this one comes with heightened expectations and familiarity.
Once again led by the determination of its star, who this time shares writing credit, "Deadpool 2" is better than it has any right to be, even when it comes up short of the mischievous mayhem delivered in the original.
Screenwriters Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Reynolds focus more on the life of Wade Wilson/Deadpool and even go to great lengths to humanize him, while still giving us plenty of blood-soaked battles to satiate the sickos who enjoy his destructive streak (myself included).
After an assignment leads to one more casualty than he'd prefer, Deadpool struggles with his violent streak and seeks to join the X-Men. Never one to play well with others, Deadpool makes a mess of a situation where they attempt to help angry teen mutant Russell (played by Julian Dennison), who is being held in a facility meant to suppress his natural powers.
Of course, as a teen, Russell is frequently incapable of controlling his outbursts, which usually leads to him shooting blasts of fire from his hands and barbecuing all in his path. In his quest to help the boy harness his powers, and thinking that the teen merely needs a family who believes in him, Deadpool ends up taking an action that lands them both in a detention center where they are stripped of their powers.
As fate (or watching "Terminator" countless times) would have it, a cyborg named Cable (played by Josh Brolin) arrives, claiming to be from the future and with intent to kill Russell before his powers lead to even greater destruction.
When director David Leitch signed on to direct, I had concerns. Not that he was not talented, as he certainly demonstrated his penchant for action in "John Wick." But my fear was the sequel would subscribe to the "more-ness" found in most followups, and we would have wall-to-wall fight scenes, punctuated with enough opportunistic zippy one-liners to pack a Schwarzenegger marathon.
There is an emotional core to this outing that buoys it from a wash of bloodshed, and Reynolds proves he's committed to the challenge. There is a smattering of new mutants who join Deadpool's hastily constructed "team" after his failed attempt to impress the X-Men gang, which perhaps leads to one of the film's most amusing scenes.
And while Brolin was (ironically) more convincing behind layers of CGI as Thanos in "Infinity War," he manages to muster compassion for his role as Cable here. When his cause is revealed, it takes more than a rock-jawed actor to buy into the backstory, and Brolin gives just the slightest window for that empathy to escape.
There are perhaps one too many fight sequences with "Deadpool 2" that threaten to bloat the sequel, but that is where Reynolds' barbed-wire wit helps slice through the scenes.
The film's funniest scenes are reserved for after the credits begin to roll, and Reynolds and company take aim at the very hand that feeds them. It's unsure whether they can pull this off for yet another cinematic round, but as long as Reynolds is behind the devilishly impish Deadpool, I would not bet against him.