If Hollywood drafted leading men like the NFL drafts quarterbacks then Ryan Reynolds would have been a top of the first round pick as soon as he was eligible to be drafted. Everything seemed to hit the right way for Reynolds, who has everything you’d want out of a leading man. He’s handsome, articulate, always in ridiculously good shape and never one to court tabloid press. You never see stories of Reynolds being caught with drugs, for example, and the most controversial thing about him is that he’s been married twice.
That’s normal for Hollywood and celebrity, though, and if that’s the worst thing he’s ever done then he’s not quite the Johnny Manziel of Tinseltown. But he is showing himself to be about as big a bust as Manziel has been on the field, though, as Deadpool represents the perfect opportunity for Reynolds to establish himself as the headliner he’s always been projected to become.
So far he’s been the guy that top lines bad romantic comedies and is a harbinger of bad film in general.
That’s the thing with Deadpool and Reynolds ever since he was cast as Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The end results may not have been the best but for the first act of the film Reynolds was near perfect in the role. He was the biggest highlight of the film and as soon as he was cast there was a near unanimous cry from comic book fans and film fans alike. It was the bright spot that we could hold out hope for; Reynolds was so perfectly cast that it felt criminal that he’d be trying to turn Green Lantern and RIPD into franchises in retrospect.
“Ryan Reynolds should be Deadpool in an R-rated film” was something you could say and no one would disagree with you. And as soon as the test footage dropped all of the potential of Reynolds to have that star-making, A-list inhabiting performance seemed to be on the cusp of being realized. Every major casting of someone in a comic book film is always trashed in the beginning; Heath Ledger’s Joker was an Oscar winner but having the “gay cowboy” as Batman’s greatest villain was a big speaking point when it happened.
Yet that version of the Joker is the comic book equivalent of Die Hard villain Hans Gruber in importance. So it was interesting to see the general rejoicing when the thought of Reynolds as the “merc with the mouth” came to fruition … and the general outrage at the end of the first Wolverine film with what happened to the character. But remember that joy from the test footage?
It was everything we ever could want in a Deadpool film and what we wanted from Reynolds as a headline star. His career at this point has been a series of misses for the most part. It always seems like Reynolds is either the right guy in the wrong film or the wrong guy in the right film. The closest we’ve gotten to Reynolds as a legit, headlining star in a film opposite someone on the same level was Safe House … and even Denzel Washington in cruise control was leaps and bounds past him.
Reynolds is talented and has everything you want in a leading man both on and off the screen but somehow … he’s never been able to find that one role that just works for him.
It’s why Deadpool is so intriguing this weekend. So far his ventures in the genre of comic books and superheroes have been fairly suspect as nothing he’s done has ever gone well. Lantern is now being reworked as the Man of Steel sequel is an effective reboot of the DC cinematic universe. The adventures of Wolverine were effectively culled into the First Class version of the X-Men. RIPD looked like it was going to be a disaster upon release … and wound up losing somewhere along the lines of $100 million when everything is tallied.
Reynolds has never been the drawing card, and leading man, he has been projected to be ever since he looked like a massive star in waiting on Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place so many years ago. You couldn’t watch that show and not think that Reynolds felt like he was destined for greater things … and yet so far he hasn’t had that big breakout moment where everyone says “That film with Ryan Reynolds was great … and he was great in it.” He always had a great small part in a terrible film, ala Blade; Trinity, or was an inconsequential part of a great film like Adventureland.
There never was a defining film and character that made you think that Reynolds is a leading man as opposed to just looking like he should be one. Will it be Deadpool? That’s the million dollar question.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .