The R-rated sequel “Deadpool 2,” the 11th film in Marvel’s X-Men series, directly follows “Logan,” one of 2017’s best films.
Surely, a silly, self-aware comedy sequel isn’t a match for that powerful elegy. But in true Deadpool style, “Deadpool 2” begins with a hilarious sequence that defiantly references “Logan.”
In one fell swoop, it acknowledges its predecessor’s greatness and asserts its own worthiness. After all, even a profound life is meaningless without some laughs.
Our hero, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), also informs us — in the midst of an army of bad guys being shot and burned alive — that “Deadpool 2” is a “family” film.
He doesn’t mean bring the kids. It means that he finds people he can call his tribe. This simple idea elevates “Deadpool 2” beyond a snarky lark to something that touches the heart a little.
Without giving away the movie’s early surprises, it’s safe to say Deadpool’s fate becomes entwined with that of a young mutant, Russell (Julian Dennison, from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”).
Russell has been abused by a mutant-hating minister (Eddie Marsan), and Deadpool decides he must rescue the lad.
Unfortunately, time-traveling killer Cable (Josh Brolin, as good here as he is in “Avengers: Infinity War”) arrives with his sights on Russell.
So Deadpool forms his own team. It includes the amazing Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower is luck, and who’s so cool she deserves her own movie.
Two representatives of the X-Men return from the first “Deadpool”: Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), accompanied by good joke wondering about the whereabouts of the other X-Men.
Russell enlists the aid of someone, too. It’s a surprise. (Hint: He’s big.) Then, Howard Hawks-style, former adversaries team up to face a greater foe.
“Deadpool 2” plays like a YouTube review of itself, with sarcastic commentary: about how some bit of knowledge might have been useful in the first act; announcing a big CG battle; or offering, “That’s just lazy writing.”
Happily, Reynolds, who has a co-writing credit, has found a fine balance between the snappy, vulgar, perfectly-timed one-liners and the source of pain that causes the humor, Deadpool’s defense mechanism.
He lowers it just enough for audiences to get to know, and like, the guy inside the red-and-black suit. The mask’s white, oval eye-spots, which move a little, are amazingly expressive in a minimalist way.
Director David Leitch, a former stuntman who worked without credit on the terrific “John Wick” and whose first directing credit was the slick but exhausting “Atomic Blonde,” has made an evenly paced movie.
Even though it runs 11 minutes longer than “Deadpool,” this sequel never feels flabby or tired. It’s lean and tightly coiled, ready to pounce but unafraid to pause.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: David Leitch
Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes