Honestly, after Deadpool (Miller, 2016) became the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history, I actually expected a new renaissance of action movies to flood cinema screens. Finally, I thought, the days of watered down 12/12A-rated action movies is behind us; I thought we would see the gloriously foul-mouthed, gory, over-the-top action movies of the 1980s make a return now that they had been proven to be critically and commercially viable prospects.
Unfortunately, that didn’t actually happen and I’m still waiting for the action movie renaissance I’ve dreamed about for the last few years; but, in the mean time, director David Leitch takes the reigns of the highly-anticipated Deadpool sequel, a movie that, again, emphasises that audiences are ready for a return of the entertaining, bombastic action movies of yesteryear.
Picking up about two years after the first movie, the immortal, wise-cracking, maniacal mercenary, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds, returning to the role he was born to play) has been carving a path of destruction through various criminal underworlds. Unfortunately, he suffers a personal tragedy when one of his targets returns for revenge; distraught and disillusioned, he attempts to kill himself in various hilarious and unsuccessful ways before Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) literally picks up the pieces and brings him to the X-Mansion.
While attempting to find a place in the world as a rookie X-Man, Deadpool meets an angry, traumatised young Mutant named Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), who christens himself Firefist. Recognising that the boy has been mistreated by the Mutant-hating Headmaster (Eddie Marsan) and staff of the Essex Home for Mutant Rehabilitation, Deadpool kills one of the ordeals and the two of them are fitted with power-nullifying collars and sent to the Ice Box (a super-max prison for dangerous Mutants).
Finally dying now that the collar keeps his powers from curing his cancer, Deadpool shirks Russell and wishes to die in peace; however, a cybernetic Mutant named Cable (Josh Brolin) travels back from the future and breaks into the prison to kill Russell, who is destined to grow into a dangerous killer. Torn between his desire to die and his urge to put Russell on the right path, Deadpool reluctantly finds himself assembling his own team of Mutants to protect Russell and keep Cable at bay.
Deadpool 2 had one job, in my eyes: to be everything the first movie was and more and, in many ways, it delivers. The movie has real heart, as Deadpool is forced to confront a very real loss and question his place in the world. This is, arguably, a ridiculous premise for a character that is aware that he is fictional by Reynolds pulls it off nicely; Deadpool is just as capable of pulling off some kind of over-the-top action sequence as he is cracking wise or emoting and you really root for his redemptive arc in the film.
Similarly, Brolin, who brings fan-favourite Cable to life, is suitably grim and gritty; it’s as if Brolin watched all of Clint Eastwood’s Westerns and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s science-fiction movies to create this stoic brick of a man who is, nevertheless, razor-focused and carries a haunting sense of loss about him. Thankfully toned down from his comics counterpart, Cable is the straight man to Deadpool’s madcap insanity and the two play off of each other fantastically whenever they’re on screen.
Brianna Hildebrand returns as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, now revealed to be in a same-sex relationship, though her role seems to be the same, if not reduced, from the first movie. Instead, Deadpool recruits Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), the Vanisher (Brad Pitt, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo), and (hilariously) the entirely ordinary and nondescript Peter (Rob Delaney) to form X-Force, a Mutant team capable of doing what the X-Men refuse to do and kill Cable. While the team’s fate is ill-fated, to say the least, the recruitment process and their initial mission are a highlight of the movie.
Unlike the first film, Deadpool 2 does not really feature a central antagonist; Cable is more of an anti-hero throughout the film and the Headmaster is not a physical threat to anyone. Once Russell decides to enact revenge against the Headmaster, he recruits some serious muscle in the form of an all-CGI Juggernaut (Ryan Reynolds), finally doing the character a modicum of justice, but the central theme of the movie is more about coping with loss and family. Deadpool, who was on the verge of having a family of his own, forms a surrogate family through X-Force and his X-Men allies and, through them, finds the means of both redemption and to seemingly correct the loss he suffers at the beginning of the movie.
Filled with Easter Eggs, in-jokes, meta-humour, action, and enough blood to make Paul Verhoeven proud, Deadpool 2 does exactly what I wanted: it takes everything that made the first movie great, ramps it up to eleven or twelve, and then expands Deadpool’s world and cast of characters beautifully.
Recommended: Definitely, movies like Deadpool and Deadpool 2 are a lost art in these days of PG-friendly cinema.
Best moment: As mentioned, the recruitment process of X-Force and their first mission is pretty funny, while the rescue operation and the second fight between Deadpool and Cable is pretty bad-ass. There’s also some unexpected cameos in the X-Mansion that made me chuckle.
Worst moment: We don’t learn too much about Cable’s back-story beyond the basics (it’s not clear which future he’s from, for example) and the film did lack a central physical antagonist but, given Cable is due to return in future films and the theme of the movie, these are minor nit-picks.