There is a reason director Tim Miller’s “Deadpool” set a box office record for an R-rated film during its first weekend of release. It is a creative, pungent and unique piece of filmmaking. The movie engages in a profane, very funny satire of superhero movies from the opening credits to the appearance of our star for a few quick barbs as the closing credits wind to a conclusion.
Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool, an officious bad boy with an attitude who finally finds the love of his life (Morena Baccarin) only to discover that he has cancer. His life then becomes changed forever when he desperately seeks a cure.
The man in charge of his “operation” has the moral conscience of the World War II Nazi physician Dr. Josef Mengele. The man, played in memorable fashion by Ed Skrein, changes his name from Francis to Ajax, which ironically becomes important to the plot. He leaves Reynolds’ facial and body features scarred forever.
Reynolds goes where no superhero character has ever gone before in that there are occasions when he will stop and address the camera. He does so to make fun of previous films ranging from “Lord of the Rings” to “X-Men,” and the movie displays the genius of screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Mockery rises to the level of a cinematic art form.
The film is also helped by some wonderful performances from supporting characters. That begins with Baccarin, who displays a nasty streak while falling in love with Deadpool. T.J. Miller has a memorable role as the bartender Weasel, a guy who wants to help Deadpool as long as it isn’t overly inconvenient. Finally, look out for villainess Meghan Orlovsky (Taylor Hickson). Helping Ajax, she resembles a female Hercules.
Reynolds is not a superhero but more of an antihero, and he is forced to wear a cheap Spiderman-like outfit simply to hide his disfigurement. Even as Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and a loveable Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) try to convince him to join the functional equivalent of X-Men and become dedicated to truth and justice, Deadpool consistently dismisses it as involving too much effort.
What is truly wonderful about this movie is that Reynolds has finally found a role that allows him to display his many great talents. Though he was really good in the overlooked “Definitely, Maybe” (2008), he has been in a series of forgettable films reflected by the outlandish “Green Lantern” (2011) and a film that few saw with good reason, “R.I.P.D.” (2013).
I can acknowledge without embarrassment that I saw “Deadpool” twice in three days, the last time being with my son and grandson, who is 17. I wanted the lad to remember a moment where he went to an R-rated movie and laughed as loud as his grandfather.
The title of this interesting film has separate meanings. From a literal standpoint, it describes a track competition, and metaphorically it relates to racial discrimination around the globe.
Director Stephen Hopkins’ movie follows the legendary Jesse Owens and his participation in the 1936 Olympics in Munich. Stephan James plays Owens, and he is a young actor of considerable talent. If you saw his powerful performance as John Lewis in last year’s “Selma,” you know exactly what I mean.
In many ways this film parallels the bestselling book “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. You get two different perspectives on what it meant to grow up during the depression in the United States. White and black American Olympians faced different challenges.
The film follows Owens growing up in Cleveland, where he had already gained national attention as a track star when he enrolled at Ohio State in 1933. He immediately fell under the tutelage of coach Larry Snyder, played with spunk and spirit by Jason Sudeikis. Coach Snyder was a hard-driving man with an attitude, and Owens soon learned that it was either his coach’s way or the highway.
While we know from history that Owens went on to win four gold medals, what we have forgotten is how close the United States came to boycotting those games. In fact, the NAACP personally approached Owens and urged him not to participate. As the young man labored on a final decision, you are left wondering why any American would boycott Munich on the basis of racial discrimination when it was rampant in our own country. You had to look no further than the fact that black college students had to ride on the back of buses in Ohio while being forbidden to shower with white athletes at the same Big Ten School.
A highlight of the film is a depiction of the games themselves. You are taken behind the scenes in Nazi Germany where you get a firsthand look at Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten), the renowned cinematic director who filmed the entire Olympics at Hitler’s request. In the process, you see Riefenstahl’s commitment to her art even though Hitler and his despicable right-hand man, Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), watched in disgust as a non-German black man dominated the games.
While the movie is a justifiable tribute to both Owens and his coach, you will be reminded that one of the leaders of America’s Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), buckled under Nazi pressure to ban two Jewish runners from participating in the 400-meter relay. It is also worth noting that while Hitler was about to implement his Final Solution, numerous black American citizens were being lynched throughout the South.
Though the Nazis deserve their eternal condemnation, we deserve a bit of it ourselves, don’t you think?•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.