When he pops up for cameos in films like Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West, most folks watching are like, “Hey, that’s Ryan Reynolds!” Reynolds easily ranks among the most handsome, charming movie stars in the game today; women want him, and men want to be him. In short, Ryan Reynolds is not someone deserving of a whole lot of sympathy in life. And yet, to an extent, I feel sorry for Ryan Reynolds.
For years, Hollywood has been littered with movie stars who didn’t really deserve such status. Adam Sandler made a few hilarious movies, then proceeded to rake in millions in subsequent years on the backs of mediocre drivel like Little Nicky and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Tom Cruise stopped being a movie star 5-10 years before the rest of the moviegoing public wised up and realized it. Ben Affleck has proven a far more accomplished director than actor. The list goes on.
Ryan Reynolds, meanwhile, is regarded as a movie star only because he starred in Deadpool. Now, to be fair, Deadpool was awesome mostly because Reynolds perfectly encapsulated the creepy charm and haunting backstory that made the character so unique in the first place. And, notwithstanding the razor-sharp writing, he’s the primary reason the film grossed nearly $800 million worldwide against a budget well south of $100 million.
Deadpool 2 is already teed up as one of the tentpole summer movies of 2018. With Josh Brolin in the fold as Cable, the sequel will likely be good; probably not as good as the original, but quality nonetheless. It will be a hit. Deadpool 2 will most likely pave the way for Deadpool 3, 4, maybe even Deadpool 5. Spin-offs could very well result. Reynolds will make a king’s ransom as the star of one of the most surprisingly successful franchises in comic book cinema history. Yet it will still feel like his career should have turned out better.
I first caught wind of Reynolds in the late '90s, when he starred on the ABC sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. The show – later renamed Two Guys and a Girl (the pizza place was not missed) – wasn’t particularly good, though it does call back to a time when sitcoms about twentysomethings navigating life as adults were an outright phenomenon. Nevertheless, Reynolds was pure gold in the show as Berg, a sarcastic med-school student who has a way with the ladies; even then, Reynolds served as Patient Zero for what happens when boyish good looks meet sarcastic charm. Akin to watching Russell Wilson thrive despite a porous offensive line, or watching a young LeBron James carry a mediocre Cleveland team to the 2007 NBA Finals, my opinion of Reynolds was only elevated by the fact that he took what was a fairly mediocre show on paper and, at the very least, made it serviceable on-screen.
Reynolds always seemed the type who would do a few years on some middling sitcom before finding his way as a legit movie star, and that certainly seemed to be the plan. A year after Two Guys and a Girl’s cancellation, he starred in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. The film was a moderate box-office success and became a cult classic of sorts. Reynolds seemed poised to take the next step as a comedic leading man. And then...well, not much.
Reynolds’s career kinda went belly-up at that point. He had a decent run in the mid-late 2000s with films like Waiting…, Just Friends and Adventureland. Hell, he even proved a more-than-capable romantic leading man with a starring turn in the underrated Definitely, Maybe. However, none of those films did much at the box office. Reynolds went the indie route with Buried, a film that was wrongfully overlooked by both critics and audiences, another example of him doing great, but relatively unnoticed, work.
The Green Lantern seemingly put an end to his movie-star prospects, which made sense, since it might very well be the worst comic-book movie of all time. Oddly enough, if his first attempt at the superhero genre damn near ended his career, Reynolds’s second turn at the genre, Deadpool, resuscitated it.
I mention all this because Reynolds stars alongside Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, in theaters next Friday. The film’s premise is unique enough – Reynolds’s special protection agent finds himself guarding his sworn enemy, who also happens to be a notorious hit man. The film is billed as an action comedy of sorts, and with two charismatic and likable leads, it should do good business. But it won’t.
And that’s the problem with Ryan Reynolds’s career. He continues to shine in movies, Deadpool notwithstanding, unbefitting his talents. Sure, Deadpool 2 will be a mega-hit next summer, and Reynolds will no doubt do the talk-show circuit while playing the role of movie star. But, even then, with the No. 1 film in the world and a surefire franchise in his pocket, we’ll be left to wonder – shouldn’t things have turned out better?