RATING |

Deadpool 2 continues the tradition, established in the original, of the self-deprecating opening credit sequence — billing itself as a movie starring "God's perfect idiot," cinematography by "Blind Al," directed by the guy who was a stuntman in Jupiter Ascending.

Except that last one is true.

Deadpool 2 is the work of David Leitch, a career stuntman who's now directing. He made Atomic Blonde and codirected the first John Wick with fellow stuntman Chad Stahelski. The two have used the Wick movies to display their love of silent-film comedians like Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton, building scenes around elaborate stunts.

You can, believe it or not, see some of Leitch's affinity for the silent classics in Deadpool 2, a movie that often blends action and comedy with visual wit and efficiency, offering an unexpected new angle to a sequel that returns with the expected load of R-rated snark and in-jokes for movie buffs (Celine Dion sings over the opening sequence, which invokes everything from Bond movies to Flashdance.)

It's an approach well-suited to the title character, a reluctant immortal (Ryan Reynolds returns) whose body repairs itself after a "fatal" injury, a scenario that Leitch uses as an opportunity to convert cartoonish violence into inventive slapstick. Some of this is very funny, even when repeating gags from the original — when Deadpool's legs are severed, he grows new ones, and so he plays one entire sequence walking around on the baby legs that have sprouted from his man-size torso.

In this sequel, the cynical Deadpool, spurred on by his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) has pledged himself to be a more decent undead person. So when some of the X-Men — the franchises are related — report that a young mutant (Julian Dennison, of Hunt for the Wilderpeople) has gone dangerously haywire, Deadpool swears to protect him.

It's a tough assignment. A time-traveling badass named Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives to kill the very same young mutant. Deadpool, now a team player, assembles a motley squad of overlooked or wannabe superheroes — he calls it X-Force, and it becomes a way for Deadpool 2 to satirize, amusingly, the way these sequences work in superhero movies (there's a parachute sequence that really kills).

The most promising X-Force member is Domino (Atlanta's Zazie Beetz), whose "power" is simply luck. In Leitch's hands, this becomes another opportunity for comical stuntwork, as fortune-favored Domino emerges — Keaton-like — unscathed from one catastrophe after another. It's slightly underdeveloped here, leaving promising room for a superhero spin-off.

None of these jokes remains on screen for too long. Working with a team of three editors (ax force?), Leitch does what so few directors of action movies do these days — he ends scenes when they should end, if not before. (The movie would be well under two hours if not for the extended end-credit sequence, which fans will want to stick around for).

It makes Deadpool 2 feel like an antidote to Avengers: Infinity War, which contained so much pointless and inconsequential physical combat. Leitch and his writers, in fact, seem to have made DP2 with Infinity War in mind, pilfering Brolin to play another villain (Deadpool teasingly calls him Thanos), poking fun at superhero mortality in the context of a story that warps time and reality.

The humor here is also warped, but it's often more ambitious than the original Deadpool, which flaunted its R-rated status with jokes content with being juvenile or obscene or both.

Here, Leitch uses brevity to do for witty action what it famously does for wit alone.

MOVIES

Deadpool 2

  • Directed by David Leitch. With Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, and Julia Dennison. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
  • Running time: 120 minutes
  • Parents guide: R (violence, language)
  • Playing at: Area theaters