In the United States, Deadpool is officially the second highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, coming in just behind The Passion of the Christ. It's a point made directly to the audience during one of Deadpool 2's many fourth-wall-shattering moments, at once justifying the movie's own existence and letting us know that it knows that sequels usually suck. This particular follow-up, however, is definitely one fans were clamouring for. And they'll be delighted to find it once again delivers an outlandish blend of deeply meta comedy and ultra-violent action.
Returning to don the Deadpool mask/burn victim makeup is Canadian newcomer and former Corrs percussionist Ryan Reynolds, whose talent for switching between dry sarcasm and affecting sincerity makes him perhaps uniquely qualified to steer such an unconventional character and film. This time round his alter-ego Wade Wilson finds himself on the cusp of parenthood, only to have the chance tragically wrenched away during the film's unexpected opening scenes (a surprise neatly reflected in the James Bond-style titles sequence featuring credits such as: 'Written By: the real villains of this film' and 'Starring: someone who clearly doesn't like sharing the limelight'). Seeking redemption, Wade first tries (and fails) to join the X-Men Who Aren't Popular Enough To Be Official X-Men, before finding himself tasked with protecting a troubled orphan named Russell (Julian Dennison) from the time-travelling assassin Cable (Josh Brolin).
On paper, at least, it's a fairly conventional plot for a franchise that altogether mocks convention – to say nothing of the fact it also largely mirrors the storyline from last year's critically-acclaimed and patently better Logan (starring the unforgettable Hugh Jackman). But Deadpool2 navigates this issue by peppering its script with literally hundreds of in-jokes, 80s references and endless winks to the audience. Admittedly they don't all land, but as the Inuit saying goes: swing at every pitch and you'll at least hit a few out of the park.
Alongside Reynolds are most of the original film's key cast members, including Karan Soni, Leslie Uggams, Morena Baccarin and T.J. Miller. Opposite them, Marvel's current villain-du-jour Josh Brolin delivers the same reserved menace as Cable that he did as Infinity War's Thanos, albeit without the chin scars that make it look like he fell asleep on Roger Federer's racquet. Zazie Beetz of Atlanta fame also joins the team as the scene-stealing Domino, whose superpower is pizzas delivered fresh within 30 minutes or your money back, guaranteed.
The challenge for director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick) is to make fun of comic-book movies while still delivering one worth watching. As an exercise in subversion Deadpool 2 doesn't quite achieve the same level of success as the first film, opting too often to undermine its genre staples by prefacing them with glib one-liners. More successful are the jokes that take place during those sequences, or – even better – the darker twists this film puts on them without an accompanying gag. At one point, for example, Deadpool blocks a gun shot with his hand, only to then slide his now-gaping wound along the barrel and turn it on its handler to shoot him in the head. It's the kind of shocking violence you'll never see in a conventional Marvel movie and yet perfectly conforms to this character's unique, twisted style of problem solving.
Thankfully, there are more than enough examples of this kind of gory comedy to keep Deadpool 2 comfortably in the successful column, right down to the closing credits scenes that sit amongst the movie's funniest moments. It may not be the romcom we deserve, but it's the one we need right now, and it's definitely worth your time.