Directed by “one of the guys who killed the dog in John Wick”, Deadpool 2 is a rollicking, gleefully irreverent and potty-mouthed sequel, which proves you can have too much of a good thing.
The weight of giddy expectation on David Leitch’s slam-bang sequel compels returning screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to chase bigger laughs and outlandish thrills with tongue-in-cheek contributions to the script from leading man Ryan Reynolds.
Consequently, these rumbustious two hours are crammed to bursting with pop culture references, droll one-liners and machine-gun profanities that try a smidgen too hard to push an envelope that had already been licked to absurdity.
For every burst of gags that hits the target with laser-like precision, one punchline veers off course, and a protracted sequence involving the title character waiting for his body parts to regrow is a surreal narrative detour too far, even for a franchise that thrives on the ridiculous.
Reynolds’ endless supply of chisel-jawed charisma atones for some sins and Josh Brolin is a worthy addition to the cast as a time-travelling assassin with a heart-breaking personal vendetta.
Former Special Forces operative Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool (Reynolds), receives a swift kick to the nether portions from Lady Luck as he continues to romance sex club worker Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).
Plunged into a fiery pit of despair, Wade is rescued by X-Men buddies Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), who now has an electrified girlfriend (Shioli Kutsuna).
The noble mutants enrol Deadpool as a trainee and for his first assignment, the wise-cracking rogue attempts to subdue a misunderstood teenager called Russell (Julian Dennison), who is being hunted by futuristic soldier Cable (Brolin).
“You’re just a clown dressed up as a sex toy,” Cable growls at Wade during an early skirmish.
“So dark,” counters the antihero. “You sure you’re not from the DC [comics] universe?”
To defeat a powerful adversary like Cable, Wade forms a “forward-thinking, gender-neutral” band of misfits called X-Force comprising Bedlam (Terry Crews), Domino (Zazie Beetz), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard) and lovable everyman Peter (Rob Delaney).
“I don’t know much about this Cable fella,” muses Peter, “but I guarantee you he hasn’t killed as many people as melanoma has.”
Deadpool 2 puts its own spin on the tried and tested Marvel Comics formula of spectacular action sequences, earthy humour and heartbreak.
A couple of uncredited cameos are delightful surprises and Beetz has a blast exploiting her acrobatic heroine’s superpower: endless good fortune.
New Zealand rising star Dennison, who was a pint-sized hoot in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, is short-changed by the script but doesn’t get lost in the blitzkrieg of digital effects.
In a filthy-minded tug of war with the first film, Leitch’s sequel comes off a fitfully entertaining second best.