Tag Archives: Ed Skrein

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool-Poster-Dec1st

My first 2016 film at the cinema was also one of my most anticipated of the year.

The hype surrounding Deadpool has been astronomic thanks to rave reviews from early screenings and a wicked marketing campaign that has been described as the best of all-time. It is thus hard to keep expectations down under such circumstances, but I’m glad to say Deadool lived up to what I had hoped for — for the most part.  It’s clever, witty, funny, satirical, referential, parodic, irreverent, action-packed, and above all, incredibly entertaining. In many ways, it’s the perfect popcorn movie for adults looking for a fun night out.

The story is conventional — a mercenary named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) makes a drastic decision to save his life but the consequence is that he becomes horrifically scarred with superpowers. He then proceeds to exact revenge against those who have wronged him in a tight red suit. At the heart of the film is actually a love story, which acts as the main source of character development and delivering emotional impact, but also makes things much more complicated for our protagonist. It’s an origins story we’ve seen before.

However, writers Rhett Reese Paul Wernick ensure that the plot is the only thing about Deadpool that’s conventional. The super duo — who are now no doubt in hot demand — infuse the narrative with loads of wild ideas, starting with repeated breaks of the fourth wall and a non-linear structure that utilises flashbacks to keep the momentum rolling. Like it did for Ant-Man, the simplicity works in Deadpool‘s favour. It’s not a story about the end of the world and the stakes are relatively small, but the effect of this is that the story feels more personal and appropriate for an origins movie. There’s no excess of characters either: just the hero, the love interest, two X-Men, two villains and two comic relief sidekicks.

The action, perhaps the most underrated part of the movie, is innovative, brutal and features copious amounts of blood. Considering the minuscule budget of US$58 million, the action sequences are as thrilling and exciting as anything I’ve seen in the big-budget Marvel blockbusters. The special effects and stunts are close to seamless (I watched it on an IMAX screen), and I was impressed by the variety of the violence — guns, sword fights, fist fights, car chases, superhero powers, you name it — most of which was done without the laziness of rapid cuts.

Still, the biggest draw of Deadpool is of course the comedy. The gags come fast and furious, and absolutely nothing is off limits. The actors (even those not in the movie), the director, other superheroes, other films, even the film’s low budget, are all targets for jokes. The majority of the humour comes from one-liners and wisecracks as opposed to set-pieces, so you’ll find yourself giggling all throughout the movie. Contrary to some reviews, however, the movie is not always in a joking mood — there are darker moments and “character development” scenes, mostly in the film’s middle section. But I recognise that this part of the film is necessary to make us care, and director Tim Miller does a great job in his feature debut in moving from one tone to another without making it feel jarring.

Unfortunately, as funny as I found the film to be, I didn’t laugh out loud as often as I thought I would (ie, all throughout), and this is because I had seen a lot of the jokes in the trailers. That’s partly my fault for watching all the trailers, and partly the fault of the marketing team for putting them in there to sell the movie. That said, thanks to the R-rating, there were still enough jokes I hadn’t seen to help me easily cruise past the six-laugh test for a good comedy. In fact, the jokes in Deadpool are so relentless at times that you may miss some because you’re still recovering from the previous gag. On the whole, there may have been a few too many masturbation jokes for my liking, but the hit rate of the jokes is already much, much higher than most other crude comedies.

Ryan Reynolds deserves all the credit in the world for being the driving force behind the film, which reportedly spent more than a decade in developmental hell. He is not only perfect as the titular character, he is also a fantastic comedian who apparently ad-libbed many of the classic one-liners. Plus he is ripped!

Homeland’s Morena Baccarin plays Vanessa, the other half of the love story. When I first heard she was the love interest I thought it was a bit of a strange choice, but now it makes complete sense after having watched the film. They needed someone as damaged as Wade but also someone with enough strength and sassiness to be more than just a damsel in distress. Baccarin fits the bill perfectly.

I enjoyed the X-Men characters not just because of their powers but because their banter with Deadpool works so well. I guess I’ll just leave it at that so as to not reveal too much.

As for the villains, I thought Ed Skrein (who was in that horrible Transporter reboot last year) could have been a little more formidable as Ajax, but his performance was generally pretty good. It’s unfortunate he kept reminding me of a buffer Nicholas Hoult. On the other hand, Gina Carano as Angel Dust was fantastic, largely because she rarely needed to change expressions.

Leslie Uggums is hilarious as a blind old lady with the acid tongue and heart of gold, though I was a little disappointed with TJ Miller’s role in the film, not because he wasn’t any good, but because he’s one of the best things about it and I wish he could have gotten more screen time. I loved his chemistry with Ryan Reynolds and thought he might get to do a little more since he delivered all my favourite lines. I’m looking forward to the DVD extras and hope he can feature more prominently in the sequel, which has to be a certainty after the film smashed the R-rated opening weekend record in the US with a haul of US$135 million (the previous record was US$91.7 million held by The Matrix Reloaded) and a worldwide box office of around US$300 million.

We’ve had R-rated (under the US classification system) superhero/comic book films before — Watchmen, Blade, V for Vendetta, Sin City, just to name a few — but never one that deliberately pushes the limits as far as Deadpool does with its gruesome violence, machine-gun-rapid profanity and crude, snarky humour. Kick-Ass is the nearest comparison but it’s not a close contest. As with all films that receive a lot of buzz before its release, Deadpool could not help but be overhyped, though despite this, the movie still turned out to be one of the most fun and funny cinematic experiences I’ve had in years.

4.25 stars out of 5!

The Transporter Refueled (2015)

transporter

I never thought much of the Transporter films that launched the career of Jason Statham, perhaps the definitive martial arts action star of this generation. And so I don’t know what possessed me to watch The Transporter Refueled, yet another reboot of a franchise that’s not even a decade removed from its last entry (Transporter 3 was released in 2008).

As I discovered, Refueled is actually supposed to be the first of a new “prequel trilogy” tracing the exploits of the same protagonist, Frank Martin, aka The Transporter. The new actor playing the role is Ed Skrein, who had a short-lived stint on Game of Thrones as Daario before being replaced due to “politics” (his words). I guess Skrein is supposed to be a younger version of Martin, though the reality is that Skrein is 32, just three years younger than Statham when the latter starred in the first Transporter film.

Anyway, Refueled is, as expected, laughably bad. It literally made me laugh. The plot revolves around a gang of prostitutes seeking revenge after waiting for 15 years (the specifics are never really explained properly) and seek Martin’s services to help them achieve this goal. As insurance, they kidnap Martin’s father (Ray Stevenson), who seems to be both very capable and useless.

You can tell what they were going for with this film. A low-budget (US$22 million) cash grab with a hot new star in Skrein, a bunch of sexy lingerie models, and loads of fast cars and hand-to-hand combat sequences. If it does well, then boom, two more similar films. If not, then no big deal. It’s made US$33 million thus far, which I’m not sure is quite enough to justify sequels (first Transporter made nearly US$44 million at a budget of US$21 million).

Economics aside, there are just so many problems with this film. The first is that Ed Skrein is no Jason Statham. Martin is an iconic character, and the films are too close together for people to forget that he made famous by Statham. Plus Statham had the charisma and the real moves as an accomplished martial artists. When you look at how buffed and slick he is you can believe his badassness. Skrein’s other talent is rapping, and while he’s more traditionally handsome than Statham, he’s not rugged enough by comparison to the original. He’s too tall and gangly, all arms and legs, and he lacks the swift brutality that made Statham such a cool character. Skrein is basically Nicholas Hoult with more muscles and less acting ability, with a style of speaking that comes across as a mumblier British version of Jack Bauer.

You can feel a sense of sexism in the writing of the female characters too. They’re supposed to be criminal masterminds who have been plotting for years, but at various points throughout the movie they’re painted as stupid and emotional and unstable. They look good in skimpy outfits though.

The dialogue is not as appalling as it could have been, though the overall writing and plot development is very poor. (I’m breaking my spoiler-free rule here for those who want to know how funny this movie is, so skip the rest of this paragraph if you still think you might see it.) The film starts when a group of mobsters shoot dead a  bunch of people and takes over the local prostitution ring. We then move forward 15 years (the prostitutes have aged remarkably well), and when we see the gangsters again, the film zooms in on each of them and flashes back 15 years to remind us which gangster they were (like it matters because they’re all just forgettable cannon fodder anyway). I’m being totally serious here. Each and every one of them, one after the other. Reminds me of an Indian soap opera that has to find ways to fill five minutes of running time with a one-page script. Another funny moment is when Martin is driving the women away from a gangster compound and a bunch of goons walk up to the car with no guns (for some reason they all like hand-to-hand combat), but instead of just running over all of them, Martin gets out of the car, and while it continues to roll forward at a snail’s pace he beats them all up by hand before getting back in the car and driving off. “The most hilarious part of the film is that after Martin’s dad is finally released by the hot prostitute women (after a threesome with two of them, no less). Literally a minute later, Martin receives a call from the gangsters, and guess what? His dad got kidnapped again! Twice in one film! You would have thought they’d come up with more than one plot device to advance the narrative.

Refueled is similar in concept to the recent Hitman: Agent 47 film in that they’re both cheap action reboots. Like Agent 47, Refueled does have some decent action sequences — nothing memorable, though well-executed — but its tone is far too serious to fit with the silliness of the film. Agent 47‘s tone was a little all over the place, but at least it seemed to acknowledge how ridiculous it was. My guess is that Refueled was aiming for a Fast & Furious vibe but failed miserably.

On the whole, Refueled more or less turned out the way I expected. It’s a B-grade film that ought to have been a straight-to-DVD experience at best, but because we’re all idiots we get to waste our money on crap like this at the cinema.

1.5 stars out of 5