The opening shot of Deadpool 2 is of Wade Wilson with his Deadpool mask pulled halfway up his marred face, puffing on a cigarette and fiddling with a sort of music box, the lilting melody playing as Hugh Jackman’s Logan lifelessly twirls on a stake. “F**k Wolverine. First he rides my coattails with the R-rating, and then he ups the ante by dying,” Deadpool narrates, promising that in this movie, he, too, will die.
This first scene acts as something of a perfect thesis statement for how Deadpool will be this go-around: If you didn’t understand the previous paragraph without more thorough context, you’re in for a rough go at getting 95 percent of the humor here, as Deadpool 2is even more meta than the original, if that’s possible, never not taking the piss out of its sister X-Men movies, as well as DC and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also boasts a higher body count than all the X-movies combined. Heads roll, literally, within the first minutes.
Both the deadly wit and decapitating katanas are, once again, wielded by Ryan Reynold’s potty mouthed antihero, who attempts to overcome a certain something awful that happens (how’s that for playing vague with spoilers?) by saving a young mutant named Russell Collins (Hunt for the Widlerpeople‘s Julian Dennison) aka Firefist, because his fists turn to fire, and thwarting the time-traveling robo-assassin — a “grumpy old f*cker with a Winter Soldier arm” — Cable (played by the battle scarred but very sexy Josh Brolin).
And so, Deadpool must call upon old friends — Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and Weasel (T.J. Miller, eesh), plus Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Neg’s new girlfriend (Shioli Kutsuna) — and X-Force recuits Domino (a beguiling Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård) and Peter (Rob Delaney, a damn delight). There’s also a string of cameos that are all the better for remaining unspoiled. One big name actor pops in so briefly that you’ll think you must be mistaken, but no. That was exactly who you think it was.
As directed by Atomic Blonde‘s David Leitch, there are some thrillingly unpredictable moments when the carpet is pulled from under you, amid all the obligatory yet still highly stylized action. Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick return, with a script credit for Reynolds, too, packing jokes that are both cleverer — let’s just say George W. Bush doesn’t get off easy — and dumber, in a good way. It is a constant comic barrage which, over the one minute less than two hours runtime, remains mostly on the right side of being too much. But it is a looot.
Where this sequel won me over, more so than the first — which I thought was fine — is that, like Deadpool the character, the movie can’t help but be better than its base instincts. Wade and girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) have plans to start a family before, as with all plans man makes, God (or whoever) laughs, allowing for as much pensive self-inspection as a Deadpool flick can muster and some moments that are actually quite affecting, which Reynolds sells equally well. Of all the surprises within Deadpool 2, the most unexpected is that beneath all the dick jokes and blood splatter, this is a poignant, sweet story about a merc with a mouth — and a heart.