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  1. Arts & Entertainment

Review: 'Deadpool' is subversive, profane and so perfectly self-aware

Ryan Reynolds in "Deadpool." (20th Century Fox)
Published Feb. 8, 2016

Don't bother complaining about what's wrong with the super-antihero movie Deadpool or comic book flicks in general. This movie will do it for you, so subversive and profane that admiring its aggro-honesty is easy.

This juvenile Marvel delinquent could join the X-Men, if he weren't such a triple-X power tool, mutated to ultra-agility and rapid self-healing. The moldy pepperoni complexion is an unfortunate side effect. Deadpool is the strong, wish-he'd-be-silent type with a brash, fourth wall-breaking line for any kinetic or kinky occasion.

The role is a perfect fit for an actor requiring as much: Ryan Reynolds, doing middle-aged Van Wilder in spandex with samurai swords. Reynolds' previous, pathetic superhero dabbling in Green Lantern turns to his advantage here, directly referenced several times. He's the center of Deadpool's consuming self-awareness, a movie trait that's always a take-it or leave-it proposition.

I'll take it one time, at least. Deadpool feels like an origins movie for a great sidekick, a raunchy Robin to someone's Batman adding comic relief by kicking butt and calling names. Director Tim Miller's feature debut is gleefully graphic, with body parts regularly splattered or exposed, hoping cringe laughter is contagious. Another one for the Kick-Ass crowd.

Deadpool used to be Wade Wilson, former special ops and career smart aleck stricken with cancer just when life is worth living with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Wade is recruited for a secret cure that's really a torture-intensive plan to build mutant soldiers through infusions, beatings and oxygen-boardings.

After escaping horribly scarred, Wade searches for dear, deserted Vanessa and Ajax (Ed Skrein), the torture expert whose real name is Francis, and Wade/Deadpool won't let him forget it. Anyone else Miller tosses in — Gina Carano's supervixen, two X-Men from the end of Marvel's bench, wisecracking T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams — are disposable action figures or cheaper laughs.

Otherwise, Deadpool excels at calling attention to itself as a lowbrow alternative to an already pandering genre. It's evident from Miller's brilliant opening credits, proclaiming the movie stars "god's perfect idiot" and "some hot chick" among more offensive cliches. Meanwhile, the camera slowly spins out and around freeze-framed mayhem, its debris including a Green Lantern joke to clue us where this movie's head is.

Deadpool's flawed insolence is appealing, like a mangy pup crawling into your lap. Inside jokes about plot mechanics and who owns the X-Men franchise lose steam around the time CGI battles begin. But any movie nervy enough to criticize Liam Neeson's parenting skills after three Taken movies and gruesomely steal from Monty Python is all right in my book.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

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