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MOVIES: Deadpool 2 - Review

It's been just over two years since Deadpool defied expectations by crushing box office records with a colossal opening weekend, going on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. Numbers like that necessitate a sequel, and this week's follow-up not only delivers on the foul-mouthed mutant's promise (made during the original film's post-credits scene) to bring time-traveling soldier Cable into the fray, but also ups the ante on the violence, profanity, and humor that made the first film such a hit.

Opening with the first of several jabs at 20th Century Fox's other R-rated superhero, Wolverine - not to mention the actor that portrays him - Deadpool 2 finds Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) recovering from a tragic turn of events by hanging up his snappy red suit and twin katanas, opting instead to spend his days and nights getting blackout drunk. Newfound purpose arrives in the form of Russell (Julian Dennison), a troubled teenage mutant who Wade seeks to befriend, and whose frequent fits of rage manifest as violent episodes, culminating in a trip to a maximum security containment facility known as The Ice Box. It's here where they both encounter Cable (Josh Brolin), a hardened warrior from a dystopian future with only one objective: to find and eliminate Russell.

That Deadpool 2 draws from an acclaimed sci-fi sequel directed by James Cameron is a strange choice when stopping to consider this point: Deadpool director Tim Miller left the second film over creative differences, only to find himself attached to the upcoming reboot of the Terminator franchise. The character of Deadpool has always dished out healthy doses of meta-humor, both on the screen and in the comics, so is it possible the "inspiration" of Terminator 2: Judgment Day on this film's plot and the numerous jokes about John Conner and the T-1000 are actually a subtle jab at Miller's departure?

Of course, this could all just be coincidence - after all, the film takes aim at plenty of other pop culture targets, from the beloved to the derided and just about everything in between. While a snipe at the DC Extended Universe was featured in the film's marketing, Deadpool 2 isn't playing favorites, and The Merc with the Mouth is just as prone to snarky remarks about Marvel films, or more complaints about Fox's apparent refusal to "throw us a bone" and include some additional members of the X-Men roster aside from the returning Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).

Deadpool 2 also tees off on genre tropes, even as it embraces some of those same cliches, such as a third act scuffle between Colossus and another character preceded by our hero staring directly into the camera and gleefully announcing "Big CGI fight scene!" It also sets a new standard for what fans can expect from the obligatory post-credits scenes, delivering some of the most shocking moments - and biggest laughs - after the main narrative has already concluded. Much like its predecessor, not every joke is successful, but those that don't quite hit the mark prove to be the exception rather than the rule.

On the other hand, the action in Deadpool 2 is a significant improvement on the original thanks to David Leitch, whose skill at helming elaborate fights sequences in John Wick and Atomic Blonde are a welcome addition to the world of superhero cinema. Whether in Deadpool's initial encounter with Cable during the midst of a prison riot, or a subsequent showdown aboard a speeding armored convoy, Leitch delivers the goods in a big way, and hopefully we can expect him back for the inevitable third film in a few years.

Speaking of Cable, fans that finds themselves apprehensive about the prospect of Josh Brolin portraying two iconic characters in two different superhero films released within a few weeks of each other can rest easy, because these roles are worlds away from each other. Cable is angry, vicious, and fueled by a mixture of grief, guilt and rage; the stoic, contemplative conqueror that decimated Earth's mightiest heroes is nowhere to be seen here (but if you think the film would pass up an opportunity to reference Brolin's appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, you obviously don't know Deadpool).

Elsewhere, Zazie Beetz makes quite an impression as Domino as she sets out to prove Deadpool wrong on the notion that luck is neither a superpower, nor cinematic (it's both, and she has some great material to work with), and Dennison exhibits quite a bit of emotional range, which should come as little surprise for anyone who enjoyed his role in Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The members of X-Force, featured in most of the film's marketing, aren't given much in the way of screentime, but their appearance pays off in tremendous fashion during one of the film's central action setpieces.

All told, Deadpool 2 should be exactly what fans expect from a sequel, an ambitious upgrade that offers more jokes, more violence, more action and more vulgarity, balancing these components into the same recipe that struck a chord with audiences two years ago. Audiences members that didn't connect with the crimson-clad mutant's particular brand of entertainment won't be won over by his second outing, but for everyone else, it's time to make the chimichangas.

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