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Living in Japan, you get accustomed to scrolling through a film’s release dates on IMDb, only to discover that it’s arriving here months behind the rest of the world. Such has been the case with “Deadpool,” which opened everywhere from the U.S. to the Republic of Macedonia back in February, but has taken nearly four months to make it to Japan.

“No. 1 in 120 countries worldwide!” screams the movie’s publicity, which merely begs the question: Why are Japanese cinemagoers constantly being shunted to the back of the queue?

The marketing folks at Fox Japan have used the generous time lag to mobilize some proper promotional muscle behind the film, including TV spots and a giant statue of the title character that could be seen touring the streets of Tokyo last month. Presumably, they’re hoping “Deadpool” can surpass the recent box office hauls of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and instead replicate the success of another R-rated comedy that did stellar business here back in 2013: Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted.”

Deadpool
Rating
Run Time 108 mins
Language English
Opens NOW SHOWING

This potty-mouthed superhero caper is as close to MacFarlane’s world as it is to anything we’ve seen from the Marvel stable so far. When the Deadpool character debuted in 1991, he was a Generation X-worthy riposte to the prevailing seriousness of American comics, parodying the genre’s excesses while adding a new level of po-mo self-awareness. His first standalone film, following a botched appearance in the widely derided “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” sticks true to this spirit. “Deadpool” is fleet, flippant and genuinely funny, peppered with pop-culture references, Marvel in-jokes and fourth-wall-breaking quips to the audience.

“You’re probably thinking, ‘Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my own movie?’ ” Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) says to the camera early on. I was more curious about director Tim Miller, a visual-effects artist who’s helming his first feature here. Weren’t you supposed to score an indie hit at Sundance Film Festival before getting tapped for a big-budget franchise like this? There are fewer questions surrounding the casting of Reynolds, who finally delivers the star turn he’s been threatening for his entire frustratingly middling career.

The plot, for what it’s worth, details how mercenary Wade Wilson was turned into the eponymous antihero, an unhinged vigilante with a penchant for wisecracks and heavy weaponry. Tricked into undergoing an experimental treatment that he’s told will cure his terminal cancer, Wilson emerges hideously scarred but gifted with heightened reflexes and a healing ability that makes him practically unkillable.

As he hunts down the amoral scientist responsible for his unsightly transformation (Ed Skrein), Deadpool has frequent run-ins with metal giant Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), a member of the X-Men team, who solemnly implores him to use his superpowers to more noble ends. But “Deadpool” raises this moral dilemma mainly to mock it: Why settle for virtue when you can have ultra-violence instead?

The film’s opening stretch is the most enjoyable, as it flips back and forth between an impressively staged motorway shoot-out and a series of flashbacks explaining Deadpool’s origins. The slick visuals, high-velocity gag rate and ample body count recall Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass,” and it’s a mild bummer when “Deadpool” settles into a more predictable groove later on.

Throughout, there’s a lingering suspicion that Reynolds and co. may not be so different from the costumed crime fighters whom they so ruthlessly mock. As Wilson’s drinking buddy comments on hearing his friend’s choice of superhero moniker: ” ‘Deadpool’ — that sounds like a f—-ing franchise.” The film’s sass may set it apart from the current field of superhero movies, but when you take the mask away, it’s still hawking the same product.

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