Anti-hero winks his way through mayhem

Deadpool. Directed by Tim Miller. Starring Ryan Reynolds. Rating:7 (out of 10)

Sure, he's had a few highprofile romances, career highs and lows, and is now married with a baby, but Ryan Reynolds hasn't changed all that much since 2002's Van Wilder.

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When I interviewed him back then a boyish Reynolds joked about wearing nothing but "baby powder and a little pinch of hope" in a pantsless scene. That butt - red-spandexed and otherwise - is on full display in his new movie. And while Reynolds and his posterior are 14 years older, the humour is no wiser.

That's a good thing, and Reynolds makes it work. Sneering superheroes are a new breed, but Reynolds' inherent charm and first-time director Tim Miller's light touch keep the ultra-gory film from veering into gratuitously snarky territory.

Gags start in the opening credits, where actor and director's names are replaced by archetypes such as "a British villain," "a gratuitous cameo" and a bunch of "asshats". Wade Wilson (Reynolds), straight out of Regina "rhymeswith-fun" Saskatchewan, is a dishonourably discharged ex-military gun-for-hire with a soft spot he won't acknowledge: "I may be super, but I'm no hero."

Wade finds true love when he meets No. 5 Orange cocktail waitress Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Homeland). (It comes as no surprise to Vancouverites that Deadpool was shot here in Vancouver, Reynolds' hometown. The opening scene more than makes up for the headaches of the Georgia Viaduct closure.) Wade splits when he gets incurable, inoperable cancer, which puts him in the clutches of Ajax (Ed Skrein, a.k.a. the British Villain of the opening credits) and MMA athlete Gina Carano, who torture terminally ill patients in the hope that they will mutate and become members of their evil army.

Wade eventually does mutate into a character he calls Deadpool, gaining super strength and invincibility but losing his boyish good looks in the process. The small

scale of his mission is refreshing: DP isn't in search of a tesseract or out to save the world, he just wants to get his face fixed and his girl back. Wade/Deadpool wisecracks through cancer, through murders and breakups, and jokes about past superhero failures (Green Lantern). He doesn't internalize his angst but instead talks it out, endlessly, frequently addressing the audience directly.

Deadpool shuns the invitation to join the X-Men but eventually needs the help of Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Megasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand, recipient of the coolest superhero name ever) to defeat Ajax. Many jokes are made at the X-Men's expense, including vivid description of Wolverine's private parts and the fact that we only see two X-Men roaming around that gigantic mansion: "It's almost like the studio couldn't afford other actors," Deadpool winks - through his suit - to the audience.

Reynolds tried to get the film made for years but test footage sat on a studio shelf until - oops - someone leaked it online and the ensuing fan uproar caused the studio to commit within 24 hours. This is a pretty specific target audience: the film is rated R, rife with masturbation and anatomical gags, and with violence that leaves a particularly chunky blood trail. There are winks to everything from Notting Hill to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (in Marvel's now-trademark post-credits bit) and with a zany soundtrack that includes Juice Newton, Wham and Saltn-Pepa. No worries that things run out of steam somewhat during the final smackdown, because how can you not love a film that features death by Zamboni and Leslie Uggams?

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