LFF 2015: The Witch ****

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Billed as a ‘horror’ and set in the usual stomping ground of some creepy, foreboding woodland, The Witch by costume designer-turned-debut-writer/director Robert Eggers could be misconstrued as the standard scare-affair, with supernatural things lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting to make their presence known.

Be warned: the ‘horror’ is in fact more about the Puritanical lifestyle that the settler family lives in 17th Century New England, and the wrath of God justice should any of them step out of line. In this respect, there is a significant psychological impact to The Witch as all existence feels alien and unnerving to its latter-day audience.

William (Ralph Ineson from Game of Thrones) and his family, wife Katherine (Kate Dickie, also from Game of Thrones), eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, Philippa from Endeavour), son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and young twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) are banished from their settlement by a Puritan court. They set up a modest home and small farm at the edge of some woodland.

Their religious piety cements their well-being. However, when their newborn son Samuel goes missing one day in Thomasin’s care, their meager and harsh existence begins to unravel and their faith is rocked to the core.

This slow-burning and sumptuous-looking tale is very visceral to watch and listen to. It is also devoid of special effects. Accompanying the subdued, earthy palette is the equally grueling speech of the era that instantly places you on the back foot. Trying to decipher what is being said with such emotion by the characters conjures a natural anxiety, preparing you for the mystery to unfold, even as you are still trying to get your bearings.

Eggers keeps things ambiguous throughout, right to the end frame. What feels like a standard period horror after the baby disappears is soon extinguished. The finger of ‘blame’ moves back and forth, even suggesting a goat is the culprit. As victims are taken, the wrongdoer must be unveiled eventually, surely? This is the film’s hold.

As sacrifices are made, the result is abhorrent to watch, and uncompromisingly brutal, starting with Baby Samuel’s demise early on that will repulse all. There is also that lingering, persistent fear of some unjust abuse occurring at any one moment that may well have been ‘normal’ behaviour at the time, but is forbidden nowadays. The familiar sexual connotations concerning Thomasin, in particular, feel unsavoury to witness.

The cast may be a list of TV stars – and it helps they are not household names, but all are magnificent in this on the big screen, especially Taylor-Joy. Her innocent beauty is simultaneously captivating and threatening, rendering her an unknown factor throughout. Ineson is raw and wounded as William, helpless to the forces at play, and up against seemingly dominant female personalities. Indeed, it’s not entirely clear why this family was cast out of the settlement at the start – was it of their own doing? Eggers makes them a complete enigma which is fascinating. The acting alone ensures the film ticks along menacingly.

The Witch initially feels like a well-worn horror tale of old with distinguishable tropes. Nevertheless, once the layers are peeled back, there is a world of doubt and terror to experience in this art-house horror. The key is this is self-perpetuating as a present-day viewer – if you relinquish to the lifestyle experience you are witnessing, rather than have the scares delivered on a plate, as is the usual horror diet.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2015: Truth ***

truth

If the truth can’t be told using freedom of speech then real journalism is dead. This is one sobering message from screenwriter James Vanderbilt’s directorial debut Truth based on sacked CBS producer-reporter Mary Mapes’s book Truth and Duty. The sad fact is there is always some sort of political persuasion in all reporting and programming – someone has to pay the bills. However, it’s always hugely energising to watch a drama trying to challenge the powers at play. The difference here is this actually happened in real life.

Looking for their next big scoop for TV news programme 60 Minutes II, Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and her research team (a commendable Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace and Elizabeth Moss) come into possession of some photocopied military memos that suggest George W Bush may have dodged drafting for Vietnam by going AWOL from the Home Guard while training to be a pilot.

The subsequent CBS programme hosted by veteran broadcaster Dan Rather (Robert Redford) causes a stir during Bush’s presidential re-election campaign in 2004, sparking a witch-hunt against the newsmakers as the authenticity of the memos is called into question. Lauded Mapes and Rather come under fire for simply trying to report the truth.

This film has such a firebrand performance from Blanchett as quick-thinking Mapes that she effortlessly rallies our support from the get-go. Her enthusiasm for the material is evident as she channels this into an engaging performance. This consists of lots of scenes of her and the usual smart people uncovering the pieces to the puzzle, simultaneously helping gather momentum – like any good police drama that involves stacks of paperwork and a handy whiteboard. Vanderbilt’s screenwriting know-how is well served here, even though he actually has Blanchett’s screen charisma to thank for pulling it off the page.

Redford is also highly convincing and rather humbling as news anchor Rather, once again showing that with age comes wisdom and being content in one’s skin – and that of another prominent person you’re emulating. Along with Blanchett, the pair nicely shares command of the screen when both are in the frame, giving gravitas to Mapes and Rather’s strong bond. This does tend to mask some directing inconsistencies, where elements could be tighter. However, Vanderbilt’s criticism of CBS’s management ethics cannot be ignored – something the American broadcaster acknowledged back in October 2015 in banning the film’s ads.

Truth cannot resist plugging the ‘truth will set you free’ in virtually every scene too, though it all hangs well like any aptly made political drama, employing the same production values and corporate blue-grey hues, cinematography-wise. Still, Truth is a very rousing piece, bolster by its true story, as all corruption should be challenged in a perfect world. It’s also very timely and effective, again, striking a chord in austerity-hit times. If nothing else, this ought to be seen for another awards-worthy, killer Cate Blanchett performance.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Triple 9 **

Triple9

Cue dirty cops, jobbing criminals and Russian gangsters; it’s latter-day US crime thriller time, just as you expect it. Although this might be a great comfort for many, Triple 9 ought to be using far more of its exceptional ensemble cast in something a little off the beaten/well-worn track. Director John Hillcoat (Lawless (2012)) and debut feature writer Matt Cook have squandered their chance to show their full potential here, as they hit all the right tropes. It just goes to show how writing experience matters.

Career criminal Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) just wants to do one last job as he has a kid son. He has no choice as he’s tied up with/related to Russian gangsters, headed by matriarch Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet). He must storm a police HQ that holds some vital documents Vlaslov needs to help release her Russian mobster lover from prison.

Atwood recruits inside help, dirty detectives Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Franco Rodriguez (Clifton Collins Jr.) into his gang – that includes hapless Welch brothers, Gabe (Aaron Paul) and Russel (Norman Reedus). To create a diversion, they plan to kill a cop. Detective Chris Allen (Casey Affleck) is new on the turf and their prime target. After all, he is the boss, Jeffrey Allen’s (Woody Harrelson) nephew.

As expected, we are introduced to the heist plan and the players – all set in the grimmest, moodiest environment, where the line between good and bad is so blurred, no one is trustworthy. So far, it’s pretty much by the numbers. It is intriguing to see the depths the film-makers will go to make their production grittier than the last. Triple 9 holds no punches here, and will satisfy and immerse you in the bleakest of urban surroundings.

The problems are the lackluster writing, coupled with the casting. Although the latter is impressive, certain members seem to be vying for ‘credible accent of the year award’. Brit Ejiofor comes off the best, but it’s Winslet’s Russian one that brings on the giggles – complete with bouffant hairdo – rather than fear, cheapening the shadowy setting the film-makers have worked hard to produce. She’s a classic Slavic film caricature in this, however you dress it up – as is willowy Fast and Furious‘s Gal Gadot as sexy sister Elena. Thank goodness for Affleck and cop drama veterans like Harrelson (True Detective) who bring the status quo back on track.

Both of the latter do a fine job – as expected – with Harrelson feeling like he has to do the lion’s share of the work in keeping an air of mystery. Allen Senior is one of those wonderful cop drama characters with a colourful record and boundless opportunity to veer off at a tangent, so they really thrive in this story. Sadly, all Affleck can do is stick to being the ‘moral compass’.

And there it is. There is little else of memorable substance to Triple 9, although it’s perfectly watchable, complete with gory and impressive action set-pieces too. It’s certainly not all bad, but could be far darker and daring in story and spirit than just its cinematography.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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How To Be Single **

howtobesingle

This time last year we were handed Dakota Johnson as our charming new ‘girl next door’ star in Fifty Shades of Grey. Now she’s trying desperately to stay single in New York, the city that never sleeps – the exact opposite to the majority of romantic comedies we see set in the Big Apple.

How To Be Single is based on Sex and the City show writer Liz Tuccillo’s book of the same name – ironically, in the hit TV series, columnist Carrie is always trying to couple up. This new film’s story still deals with bad dates and characters yet to reach their full potential. However, it only just hangs together enough for us to care whether being single is the best situation to finding fulfilment in life.

Alice (Johnson) has just graduated but wants time off from long-term college boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) to ‘discover herself’. She heads to New York, starts a new job as a paralegal, and meets resident party animal, receptionist Robin (Rebel Wilson) – who is more than happy to demonstrate her hedonistic ways, how to get free drinks all night and stay single. Alice’s workaholic older sister, paediatrician Meg (Leslie Mann) initially puts little sister up in her comfy apartment, and while Meg is convinced she’s got the best lifestyle, she gets broody and then finds love in the most unexpected place, in the endearingly goofy Ken (Jake Lacy).

Meanwhile, singleton Lucy (Alison Brie) likes to do the stats on her chances of finding ‘the one’, preferring analysing online dating apps. She uses the free wifi in the bar beneath her flat, much to the amusement of bar manager Tom (Anders Holm). Tom doesn’t want anything serious with any female, even going so far as making his own pad a ‘chick-free stop-over zone’. Who comes out the happiest remains the common thread.

As cute and ironic as this film is, it’s actually several stories running parallel – some getting more attention and screen-time than others. They all connect to Alice in some way, except Lucy’s tale. Hers merely serves to highlight the dominance of online dating nowadays – and its flaws. In fact, Lucy’s is the most interesting too, and though she never actually meets Alice, she somehow ends up at Alice’s rooftop birthday party – as if all of New York’s singletons got the call sign. As fun as it is, Lucy’s story seems rather redundant in the scheme of things, even though Brie is delightfully desperate in the role.

Another subplot thrown in purely for schmaltz value is Alice’s dalliance with handsome and successful businessman David, played by Damon Wayans Jr. He gets slightly more screen-time to shamelessly pull at the heartstrings with a kid sob story – or maybe, it’s meant to be another lesson in being strong and staying single in the city?

Wilson is a screen presence alone – often used to prop up the film’s flagging moments. Nevertheless, we know very little about Robin and why she is as she is – even the end reveal does nothing to explain things. Wilson snatches all the best lines and gets the big laughs as sexually-liberated Robin – just think SATC’s Samantha, only an alcoholic. As Alice is the butt of her jibes, her delivery feels forced sometimes, simply because Johnson’s sweet acting demeanour just doesn’t cut the mustard against a Wilson tirade.

As lovely as Johnson is as Alice – and effortlessly cool and sexy, she just doesn’t have the rom-com heroine charisma to convincingly pull things off, especially opposite Wilson. Thank goodness for the ever-reliable Mann in the trio’s scenes to soften the ‘Rebel yell’. Indeed, Meg’s story is very witty in itself, as the career woman realises that not everything is running as smoothly as she thinks in life. In reality, she and Ken’s chances of survival are slim – where being clingy and bordering on stalker-like is wholly unacceptable, but in the world of the romantic comedy, we can laugh it all off as being quite endearing.

How To Be Single doesn’t really enlighten us in how one should be single, unless you count running away from it, which seems a rather short-term ideal. It’s flawed as things don’t seem to have been adequately thought through, whether this is lost in translation from Tuccillo’s written word or not. The story seems to rely on its dominant characters to pull us through the flatter moments, as Johnson’s casting in the lead is the film’s biggest gamble – and one that doesn’t quite come off.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Freeheld **

freeheld

A film that explores issues of equality for any one group, in any shape or form, always starts out along the right path. It’s just how it proceeds that matters – does it have the required impact to further the cause? That’s the initial question regarding Raising Victor Vargas director Peter Sollett’s new feature Freeheld, based on a true story.

Beginning life as a short (which won an Academy Award), Freeheld commendably highlights the plight of dying veteran lesbian police lieutenant Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) and life partner Stacie Andree’s (Ellen Page) fight for justice in a frank and moving way. It followed the last couple of months in Hester’s life, as she battled both terminal cancer and getting her police pension benefits rightfully past onto Stacie after her death. Sadly, Ocean County, New Jersey’s Freeholders’ Court did not unanimously agree. This film follows the same trajectory, albeit picking up much earlier from just before the pair met.

Sollett’s project suffers from a very ‘by-the-numbers’ screenplay from Ron Nyswaner, who had also been the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind the moving, Tom Hanks starring drama Philadelphia (1993). It feels as though Nyswaner has delivered an all too obvious tale of cause and effect, compounded by Sollett’s plodding direction. He does not adequately flesh out the protagonists as a fully-fledged, loving couple and partnership – and in turn, allow our feelings regarding their harrowing struggle to manifest organically.

To make matters worse, the filmmakers have two of the best actors in the business in the leads in Moore and Page. Indeed, they both deliver a naturally sweet and warm chemistry – albeit using clichéd lines to enforce it. However, what actually made their characters unite and tick as a couple feels wholly missing from this, considering their different backgrounds (professions) and age gap.

We also want to know why Moore’s Hester was adamant about fighting for ‘equality’ not ‘gay marriage rights’ when her situation is hijacked by the flamboyant gay marriage rights campaigner Steven Goldstein, played by an excessively theatrical Steve Carell. Goldstein may well be a very big personality, but Carell’s portrayal here completely dominates proceedings, to the point that it drowns out our protagonist’s voice. It also adds a questionably comedic tone to the film when he is on screen. That said, Carell in full flow cannot help but be amusing, especially as he ruffles the feathers of the court and the token straight character – and our moral compass, fellow officer and Hector’s partner Dane Wells, played by an ever solid Michael Shannon.

Freehold is full of promise with its A-list cast and strong female leads, and is certainly well-meaning in its approach. It’s just a crying shame it’s been let down by the filmmaker’s superficial handling of an intriguing subject matter and potentially engrossing love story. It’s tamely adequate but not nearly satisfying enough, even though it does warrant the odd stray tear.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2015: Bone Tomahawk ****

Bone-Tomahawk

First glance at Bone Tomahawk’s poster would have Western fans rubbing their hands with glee, potentially putting off Horror junkies. It’s a curious film that could either be a Western with Horror traits, or a period slasher film set in the Wild West. Either way, it has a remarkable quality as it genuinely invests in its characters. Hence, purely labelling it a slasher with the standard bloody body count is wholly inaccurate.

When two residents of the small settler town of Bright Hope go missing, Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) and his unlikely crew of right-hand man, wise-cracking Chicory (Richard Jenkins), one of the kidnapped’s wounded husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) and local ‘Dapper Dan’ Brooder (Matthew Fox) head out on the trail of some cannibalistic Indians in a daring rescue attempt.

An air of unease looms from the very start of the film, with a fledging town rather exposed to a building malaise. It’s standard Western tactics, introducing the key players and pointing out their main characteristics. Once the foursome head off though, although you get the usual plodding horseback ride and stunning vistas then the campfire chat, it’s clear this ‘Western’ needs us to invest in its characters, so we can truly empathise with their later predicament.

Here is where writer/debut director S. Craig Zahler (writer of only one feature before, The Incident (2011)) really excels. These four could be transported into any time, any scenario because it’s their developing rapport that makes for fascinating viewing. Zahler also adds great humour that cleverly kneads the tension and fear of the unknown. He also makes the journey play out very much like real-time, though the two-hour run-time goes by very quickly.

Russell, Wilson and Fox (in a commendable against-type role) are brilliantly cast and make for an intriguing ensemble. However, it’s Jenkins’ loveable ‘old fool’ character that steals the show, coming up with the most oddly hilarious, diverting conversations in the thick of the moment. In fact, his character is the most complex – it’s clear Chicory has history and seen a lot in life, but he’s also very humbling and loyal all the same.

The film turns into a The Hills Have Eyes in the second half, ramping up the gore and casting an almost ‘supernatural’ shadow over proceedings. However, it always keeps things grounded and believable, what with alien customs in force, even though you want to be repulsed by the ‘other-worldly’ events occurring.

Zahler’s Indians are some of the most repellent any Western could possibly offer, but also some of the most privately primitive – the latter description sounding vaguely racial, but those who see the film will get the sense of this observation. There is a lot of contrast between what’s classed as ‘civilised’ behaviour and the latter, which touches on the Western tropes and further cements this genre with the slasher side.

Therefore, Bone Tomahawk is an immensely satisfying offering that will appeal to both Western and Horror camps and it looks great, production-wise. With some great acting and thoughtful directing, it certainly is one of the most refreshing Western off-shoots in a long time.

 

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Zoolander 2 **

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“We’re back!” says Zoolander: Cautious applause aside after a 15-year absence. Naturally, any opportunity to reunite infamous male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson – fills you with joy for more fashion-world jibes in the silliest style. The actors struck the right comic pose back in 2001 and we embraced their on-screen idiocy and Blue Steel look. Though the pair have aged (sorry, Derek and Hansel), it seems the jokes have got weary too. The plot is just as plain stupid but lazy in writing style.

Zoolander is coaxed out of reclusion/retirement after the destruction of his family, when his estranged young son Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) is located in an orphanage in Rome and he is invited to star in the fashion show of a trendy upcoming designer. Unbeknown to him, Hansel has also been prised from his desert orgy to co-star on the catwalk – the pair having not spoken since the tragic accident that also scarred Hansel. However, with music celebrities being taken out worldwide, and Derek Jr. being kidnapped, the models must unite – with a little help from Interpol’s Fashion Division, run by ex-swimwear model Valentina (Penélope Cruz) – to find out who is behind it all.

The fashion faux pas is there’s very little fashion to enjoy being berated in Part II, as Derek and Hansel try all their moves to wow old and new crowds, but seem more bogged down with their very own little Bond adventure. Granted, the franchise always provides a cheap giggle at non-actors in cameos trying to act. The opening scene with Justin Bieber on the run is one such example – though the trailer sadly reveals his fate. However, as with the finale that proudly parades an A-list of fashion icons getting involved – after some wouldn’t even touch the last film, the writers squander some perfectly, potentially great scenarios to really send them (and their egos) up.

Though the idea is Blue Steel is missing and vital to save the day this time around, we want more of it – and much sooner. The lack of the old dumb-smart comedy moments makes this film seem vacuous without any soul. Admittedly, it does peddle a few funny lines – the set-up of which the trailer spoils on the whole. In fact, Stiller and Owen pick up their characters’ personas without missing a beat, but the best line goes to Will Ferrell as the villainous, crazed fashion designer Mugatu – and that’s in the trailer.

Whilst watching the pair go from one car crash to another, you’re constantly waiting for the next cameo, like some social media addict needing their next celeb fix. In fact, one thing that rings true in Part II is the power of those with more online following that’s teased the hell out of here, much to our delight in a social-media-weary world. Even so-called current technology gets a ribbing, as these two archaic fashion-blazers are as mystified as some of us out there – such as how mobile battery life gets increasingly worse.

Ferrell steals what there is of a show, with an almost unrecognisable Kristen Wiig as Donatella Versace-pouting ‘twin’ Alexanya Atoz winning the most outrageous frock prize. The highlight cameo is Benedict Cumberbatch as s/he model-of-the-moment All, an absolute scream, regardless of the controversy surrounding transgender representation.

Zoolander 2 is a cheap knock-off of its haute couture 2001 comedy gem. The only positive is getting to see Derek and Hansel back together, so a small victory for Stiller and Owen, nevertheless.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2015: A Bigger Splash ****

ABiggerSplash

Fans of Jacques Deray’s 1969 film La Piscine will be curious about this English-language remake by I Am Love’s Luca Guadagnino. The cast alone is a major draw, with Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts centred around the pool in question. This time, the simmering tensions play out on the Italian island of Pantelleria off the Sicilian coast, instead of the South of France.

Swinton (I Am Love) plays retired international rock star Marianne Lane who is recovering from losing her voice and living in self-imposed exile at a villa retreat with younger boyfriend, former documentary film-maker Paul (Schoenaerts). Both are taking time out – with Paul getting over an attempted suicide, when their sanctuary is rocked by the arrival of brash ex-music producer and Marianne’s former lover Harry (Fiennes) who brings along his Lolita-looking teen daughter Penelope (Johnson) that he’s just reconciled with. Harry has designs on getting Marianne back while Penelope is interested in Paul. Sexual tensions brew as dark clouds form over the whole unsettled affair.

Guadagnino’s palette changes with the film’s moods to entice us while warning us of impending danger. It’s like watching a stage production unfold under deliberate lighting changes, as the setting is as much a lead character as its actors. The telling first scene of change to come sees Marianne and Paul content as ‘pigs in mud’ – literally – as Harry’s plane flies overhead, casting a shadow over the couple. From that moment, Guadagnino uses light and shade to set the stage, dictating how we should feel to impressive effect.

As Swinton commendably acts as much as one can when your character has no voice, still invoking the required emotion at any one time, it’s down to Fiennes to invigorate and stir the emotional pot. This has got to be one of his finest performances in a long time. Harry is such a free-willed man tornado who throws caution to the wind that you are both delighted by and troubled by his presence in each of his scenes. His flippant remarks either have you scoffing or laughing out loud, or wincing with embarrassment or pity. The beauty is, Harry is equally bruised by past regrets that you cannot simply dismiss him. He’s the film’s devilish catalyst and anti-hero.

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Harry paves the way for Johnson’s Penelope’s unhealthy interest to grow. In fact, you could argue her character merely awakens the status quo from their stagnant slumber, as no one is actually happy, regardless of the stunning surroundings. To be honest, their imperfections are nothing compared to how the local law enforcement comes across in this film, including caging boat migrants in the town’s local immigration camp – a controversial political statement of our current times, if ever there was one. This feels like a deliberate red rag by the film-maker, but also acts a convenient comparison between haves and have-nots – the former still not getting it completely right with the whole world at their feet.

The film is perfectly cast, including Johnson who is usually ‘vanilla’ in performance, but always seductive (unintentionally sometimes) and easy on the eye though. Her laid-back delivery works in her favour here, as she and all the other characters play their cards close to their chest, keeping you constantly wondering as to their real motives. The only clues are Penelope’s reading material, making her less of a closed book. This goes to fuel the friction and distrust, leading to inevitable tragedy. It’s deliciously infectious, like watching a beautifully executed ‘whodunit’ developing in paradise.

Rolling Stones fans will also come in for a treat with lots of music, reminiscing and nods to their heroes, as Harry revels in fond memories of his former hell-raising lifestyle. It’s all retro hip – including the villa itself. Whereas La Piscine had a blue-bottomed pool, this one is a sheer piece of art in itself, formed like a natural sunken bath that’s both inviting and later constricting and broken-looking as it takes its casualty.

The inherent problem with the film is its ending and who is left that make for a damp squib of a finale after the emotional rollercoaster. There is also a strange tonal aspect that involves a final, semi-comical turn by local plod. It cheapens the emotional dynamism of the former. In fact the triumphant character we are left with is not necessarily one we care about the most. Therefore, there are no winners, leaving you flat in emotion.

Nevertheless, A Bigger Splash is must-see viewing for those who like a modern-day tragedy of forbidden longing, both in acting and setting. It could have been perfectly envisaged with a rethink of the ending to keep the momentum from fizzling out too early, even with the necessary ‘calm after the storm’. That said it is a successful English-language remake by a great emerging feature-making talent in Guadagnino – who has honed his skills in short-film-making – that rightfully stands alone.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Deadpool ****

deadpool

With the state of the planet today, it seems like all the superheroes have decided to hide under the duvet, rather than take on world affairs. Such is the case with latest Marvel screen offering and anti-hero Deadpool – reprised by Ryan Reynolds who’s hung up his Green Lantern costume for now. Deadpool prefers a personal vendetta to settle. After all, this former comic-book super villain is known as the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ for his cocky repertoire, so it’s hardly surprising he’s rubbed a few backs up the wrong way.

Ex-Special Forces op turned mercenary Wade (Reynolds) has the gift of the gab and the beautiful girl (Vanessa, played by Morena Baccarin), but also found out he’s got terminal cancer. Offered the chance to be ‘cured’ a mysterious organisation, Wade is left with accelerated healing powers, a bad disfigurement and an arch nemesis in Ajax (Ed Skrein). Renaming himself Deadpool, Wade goes on the hunt for Ajax who claims to be able to cure his predicament, while trying to find and reconnect with his girl.

From the get-go we’re introduced to Deadpool and his smart-ass mouth as he deals with villains in slow-mo balletic form. Even the title sequence is hilariously graphic and cheeky in its own right, setting the tone before we hear the ‘Mouth from the Merc’. With all the usual seriousness associated with superhero films and their planetary quests these days (cue X-men jibes throughout), it’s so refreshing and decadent to hear a rebel voice from a less-than-perfect anti-hero. There is a lot of smut but it’s rapid-fired at you that any offence is quick to evaporate. That said Deadpool sets out to be offensive in every possible way – no apologies made – so the fainter-hearted might want to steer clear. For the rest of us, Deadpool is comic-book comedy gold.

Reynolds has certainly found his stride with this character, really making the little known Marvel assailant into a lead player. He gets to rock a wicked looking costume with a wicked-sounding mouth while toying with borderline mentally unstable – just as fans of the character will love. Deadpool is much like arch villain The Joker in anti-establishment, ‘finger-saluting’ fashion but way cooler in style. The result is more gory 18-rated damage while being led, Fourth-wall style, though his grizzlier bits.

Like all decent comic-book-adapted films, Deadpool offers oodles of action-packed scenes, the thrilling transformation into superhero status (complete with DIY costume making), and the stunning girl, along with the adult humour. Even X-Men fans with a sense of humour won’t mind the Deadpool taunts, especially after his and Wolverine’s last meeting in 2009 (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and with upcoming film Apocalypse.

Indeed, there are plenty of supporting roles to thoroughly enjoy, like X-Men mansion residents, metal-mountain Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) trying to remain chivalrous while being pummeled by Gina Carano’s Angel Dust, and moody Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) proving Deadpool’s greatest mental challenge. This whole affair is more about the characters than settling any great score.

Deadpool is a seriously damaged super-being to get behind while watching the ‘car crash’ unfold – potty mouth aside. He’s not just anti-establishment but sends up the rash of superhero, cinematic white noise that fills the box office in recent times in a highly entertaining way. As they say, there’s a fine line between good and evil, with this ballsy character dancing back and forth over it with utter contemptible glee.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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