Deadpool 2 (2018): Deadpool Works Best in a Supporting Role

“Deadpool 2” is a fun action comedy that works in a lot of the same ways as the first film (critiquing Superhero films and pop culture), while trying to find a layer of depth in its characters which it sometimes succeeds at doing. It isn’t as good as the first film as it depends on most of the same jokes but it is still a film I’d recommend, as the new characters are fantastic and the jokes are still funny.

The film was directed by David Leitch and written by Rhet Reese, Paul Wermick and Ryan Reynolds.

The story involves Deadpool seeking a reason to live after criminals kill his wife Vanessa as he joins the X-Men to protect Russel, a boy who will someday become the supervillain Firefirst. Things soon get complicated though as protecting Russel lands both Deadpool and Russel in prison and they find themselves pursued by the cyborg super-soldier from the future, Cable.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Lampooning of “Logan” – The main joke that drives “Deadpool 2” is making fun of “Logan.” There will be spoilers for “Logan” in this, so here it goes…. In “Logan” Wolverine is in charge of protecting a kid from outside forces, and in the end, has to choose not being selfish, sacrificing himself to save her and the next generation of X-Men. Deadpool does all of this and mocks the sacrifice of “Logan” off the bat with a music box depicting a spinning, dead Wolverine on it. This core joke works but comes off as derivative given how much Wolverine and the comics he inhabited were mocked in the first film. 

Colossus – Colossus isn’t the heart of the film like last time, but he is great as Deadpool’s unsuccessful mentor. In the end he comes through to help Deadpool when Deadpool needs him though. I never cared about this character until the “Deadpool” films, and I hope we see more of him. Nothing was done with him in the other X-Men films, but here is a true hero more often than not.

Domino – Domino is the new addition and one of my favorite parts of the film. She is a mutant whose power is luck (Which in the film she can read situations to the point of doing the near impossible). Zazie Beetz does a fantastic job and gives the character an heir of confidence as she is so much better than so many of the idiots around her. We learn her backstory but, sadly, it doesn’t payoff  as she was abused in the same school as the character Russel / Firefist but she doesn’t get any payback. It remains unaddressed, which is a shame, as it gave her a motivation to help Deadpool and join X-Force.

Cable – Josh Brolin is an amazing actor and in this film we see him give a depth of emotion to your standard Terminator-esque cyborg. Through the film we see why he is motivated to kill Russel (in the future, Russel kills his wife and baby girl), and it is only through Deadpool’s actions that he learns compassion, even deciding to stay in the current timeline once he knows his family is safe. I hope we see more of the character as there is still so much that can be done, and I like his contrast with Deadpool’s flippancy, as he is always serious.

Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds truly owns this role and even though this film repeats a lot of the same jokes (Mocking Reynolds and “Logan,” Deadpool referencing pop culture, etc.), it is still an enjoyable film because, as flippant as Deadpool is, Reynolds gives this character heart. This is a character who grows as a person and has to learn to be vulnerable and open up, as in the end, that is the only way to save Russel from becoming a monster of the future. This is the thrust of Deadpool’s arc after criminals kill his wife Vanessa, and it is touching and hilarious seeing how he gets there.

Okay:

X-Force – X-Force is a joke, as they only exist to get killed off. There is a character who is invisible until they die and are revealed, and 3 other characters, one of whom is just a normal guy who just saw the advertisement. They all die when they are attacking the prison truck to save Russel. The only members to survive are Domino and Deadpool, which is the running gag of the group… that they are that worthless as a team. I put them in the okay category because I wanted more development of the team members. This is the running theme for me on why the film wasn’t great as so many ideas were good but they weren’t developed enough to reach greatness.

Negasonic and Yukio – I like that we see the first openly LGBTQ relationship in X-Men. It is overdue and Deadpool is a great way to show it. I hate that we know nothing about Yukio and Negasonic’s relationship. We never see how they work as a couple, they just are. Given how important love and relationship was in this film, it was a missed opportunity to make something that was a good idea truly fantastic.

When Jokes Repeat – Many of the jokes in this film are repetitive… be it Deadpool’s semi-stand up routine, the mocking of “Logan,” Wolverine and Ryan Reynolds and making fun of DC. I’m not putting this as a con, but this film could have been amazing if it’d been more original in the jokes it chose to present.

The Cons:

Russel and the School – Russel is a kid who turns into a villain in X-Men’s dystopian future, a future in which he kills Cable’s wife and daughter and takes the name Firefist. Russel isn’t a good actor. He does an okay job but he just wasn’t compelling enough to be the heart of the film, which he needed to be given it was him healing from his abuse and not becoming a killer that was the core thrust of the story. The owner of the school suffers from this same problem, as he is just a corrupt religious fanatic who gets zero development, only functioning as a way to drive the plot, which at the end of the day was all Russel was too.

If you liked “Deadpool” you will probably enjoy “Deadpool 2.” This was a film that was flawed and repetitive, but introduced a lot more characters and concepts, that I hope get explored in future films be it X-Force, Domino, and Cable, along with the dystopian future that Cable came from. At the end of the day, this was a solid action comedy and I’m glad it exists to make fun of the world where superhero films own the box office.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – A Good Sequel That Raises the Stakes

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    “John Wick: Chapter 2” is the best kind of sequel. It raises the stakes, gives greater exploration of the world and further develops the characters. Sadly what keeps it from being on par with the first film is it isn’t nearly as tightly written and the ending could have been handled differently. I wouldn’t call it great because the cons it carries keep it from being that, it is no “Empire Strikes Back” but it is better than “Die Hard 2.”

      The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Derek Kolstad and produced by David Leitch, Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee.

     The story picks up where the last film left off with Wick taking out Viggo’s brother to get his car back so he can go back into retirement. Sadly his retirement doesn’t last long as Santino calls upon a “Marker” that had been formed between them when he helped John complete his impossible task. When John refuses he destroys his home, forcing John to fulfill the “Marker” and kill his sister, who sits on the Assassin High Table.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise involves John being pulled back into the world of assassins after he finishes back his car as the stakes are raised as he has to kill someone who will put an even bigger bounty on his head. I enjoy the “lose lose” of the situation that John is put into. It forces creativity and thinking outside the box.

The Opening – The opening is fantastic and one of the best action sequences in the whole film. In it we see John get his car back and make peace with Abram (Viggo’s brother) after he kills all his men and gets his car back. It is powerful and we see that John is still honorable even when others are not.

The Action – This film has a lot of action in it and because of it there is a lot of great action. From the fight in the catacombs in Rome, to the Museum fight and the car chase at the beginning…all of these run laps around the Bond films out of recent memory.

 The World – The world is intricate as we learn more about what holds the world of assassins in place. From the Continental having hotels all over the world, the High Council of 12 that runs everything and the Bowery King, and underground information broker in NY who owns the streets.

The Characters – The characters are the best part and there are a lot of great ones, though the villain is once again the least interesting character in the film…much like Viggo’s son in the first film.

Charon – Charon is the man who welcomes people into the Continental and this time he is Wick’s ally as he takes care of his dog and takes him in before the Continental excommunicates him. I hope he’ll be back for the sequel.

Ares – Ares is the deaf assassin that serves Santino. She is a great character and holds off Wick on multiple occasions. I wish we could have learned why she is serving Santino as there was clearly more there. She is the final boss for Wick before he finally ends Santino in the Continental. Ruby Rose does a fantastic job.

Gianna – Gianna is Santino’s sister and one of the members of the High Table. She kills herself rather than letting John kill her and they have a great conversation as we see that she always ended things on her terms. Like Santino she is ruthless though as our first scene with her is her shutting down someone whose land she has taken in her rise to power. We learn that her and John are friends too.

Cassian – Cassian is Gianna’s protector and Common does a great job of showing him to be the honorable assassin. He is respectful of John, even as he is trying to kill him and we see how both of their codes keep them at odds where they would be friends in other circumstances.

Aurelio – Leguizamo is back, though it is only to pick up John’s car and joke around about when it will be fixed. He is a great character though and I hope he is an ally in the next film.

Winston – McShane does an amazing job as this character. In this we see he like Cassian is bound by honor and he gives Wick a day before he excommunicates him as well as giving him the “Marker” that Santino had placed him under so he can use it to free himself someday. You see regret from Winston but also hope that Wick will survive.

The Bowery King – Fishburne plays the Bowery King, an information broker who tags pigeons with chips and microphones so he knows what is going on everywhere. He is insane but has respect for Wick for sparing his life. I hope we see him again as he mentions that Wick owes him when he hides, heals and gives Wick the gun to take out Santino.

Okay: Santino – Santino betrays Wick and there is no reason behind it. It is implied they have a history but it is never explored fully. I didn’t hate the character so I won’t put him as a con, but he could have been so much more. I wanted more history and less action and he could have been how to do that.

The Ending – The ending has Wick excommunicated and the High Table raising the bounty internationally on his head as he is running away with his dog but holding the “Marker” which maybe his salvation. I liked it but wish he had found a more creative way to end Santino. I wish he’d still had the Continental. Him having nothing makes his survival much more questionable and if they don’t kill him next film (given he has no allies) it will be difficult to take seriously. He needed some allies.

Cons: When the Action Goes Too Long – There is a ton of action in this film and at times it goes on way too long. I get this is an action movie but what made the first film better is the action had purpose and didn’t overstay it’s welcome. When Alfie Allen is taken out it is quick but here the action sequences are dragged out and it detracted from the amazing narrative that was going on.

    This is a sequel you should check out if you like action films and were a fan of the first film. The world is further developed and the stakes are raised in such a way that they could end this series as a Trilogy easily. After that I hope they don’t do anymore, they can’t raise the stakes and take anymore from John Wick, so I hope they end this series next movie. I really like John Wick and I’d hate for to be “Die Harded.” This film is a solid sequel and is once again a lot of fun in a world Keanu Reeves clearly owns.

Final Score: 8.9 / 10

John Wick (2014): An Amazing Action Flick That Shows Just How Great Keanu Reeves Can Be

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     “John Wick” is one of the best action movies I have ever watched. This is a movie that has an intriguing world, fascinating characters, amazing action and a narrative that flows. If you like action films. These are my brief spoiler free thoughts before I get into the main narrative and the details of the film, but truly, this film is worth your time.

    The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Derek Kolstad and produced by Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longoria, Michael Witherill and James McTeigue.

    The story involves retired assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) being pulled back into the world of assassins after the son Losef (Alfie Allen) of the Russian Crime Syndicate steals his car and kills his dog leading him to go on a killing spree against the Syndicate as he finds himself pulled into the world he left.

The Pros: The idea – The idea of an assassin pulled out of retirement to go against people he used to work for is intriguing. It gives the personal touch and motivation that can easily be lost in a studio made version of this.

The World – The world is amazing! You’ve got an assassin run neutral zone that is a hotel, through which all the different organizations have a way to interact without murder…and Wick is the best of this group as of what we learn from this film.

The Soundtrack – The music is by Tyler Bates and Joel Richard and it is good at getting under your skin. You feel Wick’s conflict as well as how amazing some themes are as they are good at showing the dulled senses of a club combined with the hyper focus of an assassin on a particularity memorable sequence.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is dark but uses colors to illustrate mood and tension. Red is used a lot in the club scene and we see light used when he is with his wife and has peace living with his dog. It is truly wonderful.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this world and the fact that they chose great actors shows as much.

Aurelio – John Leguizamo plays the car repairmen for the different gangs and is friends with John Wick. He’s a great character as he is the first to show Losef he is in over his head and that he barked up the wrong tree and even confronts Viggo without breaking a sweat. It is a minor but fantastic role. Also I’ve always been a fan of Leguizamo.

Viggo – Viggo is in charge of the Russian Crime Syndicate and is a great overall villain as we see his respect for Wick but also his ego come into play. Wick lets him go free once and he lets it all go because he wants revenge for his bastard of a son. His death means something because of it because he tries to live honorably but gives it up for personal revenge.

 Winston – Ian McShane plays the owner of “The Hotel” and is a fascinating character as he gives protections to those who live in death and promotes it as a neutral zone. When it all goes to hell he honors that too and lets Wick know Viggo’s location and kills Ms. Perkins for killing the staff and targeting Vick. I want to learn more about this place.

Marcus – Willem Dafoe is Wick’s friend and protector in this as he joins Viggo to protect Wick and he saves Wick multiple times. IT is a great relationship and I wish we’d gotten more history as Marcus like Wick is an assassin capable of empathy.

John Wick – This is the best Keanu Reeves performance I have seen since “The Matrix” and I love that we get to see him emote and have anger, passion and the everything else this underrated star is capable of. The movie would be worth it just for Reeves. His arc involves losing everything but finding peace after revenge, which you rarely find in movies of this type where the broken person is the theme. Wick healed and we get his prime motivation in the end is justice.

The Ending – John Wick is at a Vet and rescues a dog and uses some of the medicine to heal his wounds fighting the Russian Crime Syndicate. He picks a Pit Bull and we see that even if that world of killers pulled him back in, he will always be outside of it. The dog that his wife gave him was his peace and it is once again at the end.

The Cons: Ms. Perkins – She wants to kill for money and knows John Wick? I didn’t know if they wanted to go ex-relationship route but she is a character is purely a plot device. We don’t learn about her relationship to Wick or much else, which is a shame and makes her a con.

Losef – Losef is a 2-D villain, he never grows up, shows complexity or regret…and just brings the film down. Alfie Allen is good but his character is awful. He deserved to have someone more than a plot device to up the anti for Viggo against Wick.

    The only things that really keep this film from being perfect are Losef being a nothing character who is just a coward and bully and Ms. Perkins having no motivation for wanting to take out Wick beyond money. This brings down what could have enriched the story further as she is the secondary main villain and we never learn why. Besides these two characters this film has tight writing and was beautifully filmed with some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in any film. This film is a beautiful work of art that is well worth checking out. Suffice to say, I can’t wait to watch “John Wick: Chapter Two.”

Final Score: 9.5 / 10