Tag Archives: Ryan Reynolds

Deadpool (2016)

18 Feb

Deadpool, the long-gestating passion project of Ryan Reynolds, has finally seen the light of day. After a decade of negotiations with 20th Century Fox over if/how/when the beloved comic book character would get his own film (the studio had its speculations after the lackluster Green Lantern from Warner Bros), test footage featuring the foul-mouthed superhero was “leaked” in 2014, which elated passionate fans who took to the internet to petition for a proper, R-rated movie.

Directed by VFX artist Tim Miller, and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (who both worked on the cult comedy Zombieland), Deadpool focuses on the origins of the titular character, a cancer-ridden mercenary who is as meticulous with his snarky word choice as he is with his aim.  After an attempt to get cured by a mysterious man named Ajax (Ed Skrein) goes south, Wade Wilson aka. Deadpool decides to seek vengeance on the man who hurt him.

Deadpool is no fan of subtlety, and most of the film features our anti-hero in full R-rated glory. A gritty, violent, and foul-mouthed take on the genre, Deadpool wears its MPAA “R” like a bright and bloody badge of honor, making every use of the word “fuck” you can think of.

Despite its rating, however, this is far from being anything close to an “adult” film; with a heaping supply of genitalia jokes, masturbation jokes, drug references, fourth-wall-breaking gags, and quips at other characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Deadpool seems set on being both an accessible and juvenile action flick while still attempting to take the superhero genre into dark and subversive territory. The edginess often runs thin however, and Deadpool ends up – more often than not – falling back into the same tropes it’s desperately trying to poke fun of.

Still, it’s surprisingly satisfying to hear Deadpool riff on and on in a meta state of self-parody, and there are a few jokes scattered throughout that are actually smart (and pretty damn funny as well).  Ryan Reynolds fits his role like a glove and makes a huge comeback performance as a leading action-hero. Technically, the film is a marvel considering its “small” budget of 58 million; Miller’s keen eye for visuals works wonders in his direction, and the action scenes feel fluid, engaging and fresh. Structurally, the many flashbacks and flashforwards actually work in the film’s favor, contributing to Deadpool’s self-aware, Brechtian quality.

Bottom Line: It might play out like a nauseating wet dream of a 15-year old, but Deadpool still has enough bite to put a uniquely funny spin on the ever-tiring superhero formula.

Rating: 6/10 

Film Recipe: Watchmen (2008) + 4th wall breaks + masturbation jokes (both of the literal and figurative variety) 

Mississippi Grind (2015 Sundance)

8 Feb

Director Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) hits the fast-paced world of gambling with his latest Sundance Film Festival entry Mississippi Grind. Set at various casinos up and down the Mississippi River, the film follows Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn), a longtime gambling addict, and Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), a fellow gambler.  Gerry, (who is long overdue on his payments and owes money to half his friends and family) plays the poker game as a last-effort resort to make his payments. Curtis is just in it for the fun, or as he says “I like meeting gamblers”. The two form a tight friendship and decide to enter a high profile tournament in New Orleans.

It becomes clear early on that Gerry needs to win big and will either be coming back home as a winner or not at all. His technique involves playing a CD with hundreds of audio tips (“…number 85 – A player with a furrowed brow indicates disappointment. He or she might be holding a bad hand…”) in his car as the two journey together. Curtis on the other hand, has enough money, but is just a traveler by nature, never staying in one town for two long. According to him, the journey is more important than the destination.

Most of Mississippi Grind takes the form of a road movie, with Curtis and Gerry meeting a colorful assortment of characters and playing a series of small-time games together as they make their way down south.  Heartbeat Ryan Reynolds gives a solid performance, but it is really Ben Mendelsohn who steals the show. Mendelsohn, who has long been underrated character actor, totally dissolves into his character and shows the many mannerisms of a gambling addict. To such a person, every little thing becomes something to bet against (at one point, Gerry impulsively bets $1000 on whether or not the next person walking out of the restroom will have glasses on) and their only way of coping with life’s stresses is to constantly be winning.

Watching these two characters on screen is incredibly satisfying, but their chemistry is sadly restrained by the simple story. The atmosphere is there, the acting is there, the music is fantastic – but what this film is missing is a narrative dramatic enough to match the performances. We never really get a sense of how much this poker tournament means to each character, and it feels like they are just onscreen to fill time and space.  Without much of a purpose or a need to be there, the film just feels like an unnecessary road trip.  It has its moments for sure (the final 15 minutes is quite incredible) but as a whole, Mississippi Grind just isn’t compelling enough to merit much other than a simple bromance between two gambling addicts.

Rating: 6/10 

Similar to: The Gambler (1974), Hard Eight (1996), Sideways (2004)