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Ryan Reynolds’ evolution: From rom-com yuckster to bada-- action hero

By Liz Braun, Postmedia Network

Tinseltown has plenty of deep mysteries: the Black Dahlia; the Superman curse; the haunted Hollywood sign; the Ryan Reynolds leap from romantic comedy to action superhero.

How did that happen?

One minute Reynolds and Sandra Bullock were moving along nicely from contempt to passion in typical rom-com fashion in The Proposal.

Next thing you know, the guy is thrashing villains next to Denzel in Safe House.

And then trouncing everyone in Deadpool.

Now Reynolds is the star of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, dicing and slicing with the best of them. The movie opens Friday and co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek and Gary Oldman.

And after that (only 304 more sleeps!!) comes the highly anticipated Deadpool 2.

What’s constant in all this is the comedy.

What still feels new somehow is the explosive action.

And Reynolds does most of his own stunts?

“Well, you don’t do the insane stuff.”

The actor had a career resurgence last year — thanks to Deadpool — that’s comparable to the McConaissance.

The big difference is that poor old Matthew McConaughey had to recover from such detritus as Failure to Launch, Fool’s Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

Reynolds, on the other hand, appeared in appealing romantic comedies: The Proposal, Just Friends and Definitely, Maybe.

Still, it was time to for Reynolds to move on, and prior to Deadpool, the Canadian actor’s career seemed to stall a bit. He kept appearing in good movies — Woman in Gold, Mississippi Grind — that nobody saw.

We should celebrate his success as a full-on action hero in Hitman’s Bodyguard.

But what to call his career resurgence? The Ryannaissance? The Reynewal? The Ryanvention?

Never mind.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Reynolds, who is 40 and a native of Vancouver, is a very funny guy.

He’s king of the withering glance, the sarcastic aside, the barely controlled hysterical reaction.

It’s no surprise that his earliest acting gigs were often comedic, and with the film Van Wilder in 2002 he started to gain widespread notice.

Mind you, Reynolds was also a heartthrob early on.

Way back when, he played the cute guy on the TV movie Sabrina the Teenage Witch and on the series Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place; with those comedy skills he could never play just another pretty face, but the looks/laughs combo meant one could have predicted a future in romantic comedy.

The recent box-office success of Deadpool notwithstanding, Reynolds actually got into the action game as early as 2004, learning the rules of ass-kickery for his ferocious part in Blade: Trinity — his first role based on a comic book. At the time, he talked about bulking up and lifting, “More weights than I could ever dream of.”

He kept his action-ready bod evident by taking his shirt off in The Amityville Horror remake the next year, and in 2006 he again rode the action route in the crime drama, Smokin’ Aces.

Smokin’ Aces and fantasy drama The Nines (2007) sit on Reynolds’ resume surrounded by comedies — Just Friends, Definitely, Maybe, Adventureland, Chaos Theory, Paper Man and The Change-Up.

(Okay, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern were in there somewhere too, but we’ll ignore those.)

Safe House in 2012 was the reminder people needed that Reynolds has always had the goods to be an action star.

Safe House, like The Hitman’s Bodyguard, has Reynolds reluctantly joining forces with an adversary; unlike The Hitman’s Bodyguard, however, the earlier film didn’t leave enough room for Reynolds’ humour.

Too bad.

The movie that finally pulled together Reynolds’ talent, action chops and mad comic skills was Deadpool, a movie he did his way — over 11 years.

"We were so concerned going in that they were not going to allow us to make the movie the way we needed to make it," Reynolds told the Sun in 2015. But his vision prevailed.

He first talked about his interest in playing Wade Wilson/Deadpool back in 2005; the character turned up (sort of) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine four years later.

It took another seven years before the real Deadpool saw the light of day.

Just before the hit movie was released last year, Reynolds told the Sun, “The superhero universe is big and it's intimidating. It's a world that comes with a great critical cost if you hit or if you miss …I’ve been there only one time with Green Lantern, and that obviously had a very different outcome."

If you were to list the attributes that have defined Reynolds’ career, humour might be first on the list but hard work, humility and happiness are right up there.

He earned the success he’s enjoying and he’s known as a guy who counts his blessings. Reynolds has summed up marriage (to Blake Lively) and fatherhood easily: “I honestly couldn’t be happier;” he’s often said how grateful he is to have the career he has.

And if that career has morphed from one thing into another, well, that’s just serendipity, claims Reynolds.

“It all feels like a weird accident.”

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

LBraun@postmedia.com

FIVE RYAN REYNOLDS MOVIES THAT DESERVE REPEAT VIEWINGS

Here are five Ryan Reynolds movies that are not only worth seeing but worth seeing more than once.

What they all have in common are the actor’s impressive performances.

Of course Deadpool could be on this list, but we’re assuming you’ve already seen that movie three times. Like the rest of us.

Waiting (2005)

This is a completely puerile comedy about young staff at a dubious restaurant. When they aren’t adding pubic hair to someone’s sent-back food order, the guys play a special game that involves flashing each other. It’s stupid, yes, but hilariously funny; it’s also an unexpectedly solid coming of age story. Terrific ensemble cast includes Reynolds, Anna Faris, Justin Long, Dane Cook and David Koechner.

Just Friends (2005)

Reynolds has great luck working with Anna Faris. In this comedy, he’s a former geek who moves to Hollywood and gets famous as a manager; Faris is the neurotic singer whose career he has to babysit. A home town visit means he encounters the woman he’s loved since high school (Amy Smart) but never mind all that — it’s Reynolds’ scenes with Chris Marquette, who plays his younger brother, that are brilliant. You can tell the actor brought real-life experience as one of four brothers to this role.

Mississippi Grind (2015)

Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn co-star as a pair of compulsive gamblers who recognize something in one another and decide to travel to New Orleans for an important poker game. This is a gritty drama about grown-up male friendships and about disappointment in life; it’s a characters study, that’s all, but it’s about what life looks like when more of it is wasted and behind you than is yet-to-come. With Alfre Woodard and Sienna Miller.

The Nines (2007)

This sci-fi mystery thriller-wonder puts Reynolds in three different roles, alongside Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy. Art and real life keep crossing paths and strange events puzzle our hero, but all is eventually revealed.

Well, sort of. Bring an open mind.

Buried (2010)

Reynolds is essentially the only person in this movie. He plays an American working in Iraq who finds himself buried alive inside a wood box, with only a lighter and a cell phone as potential tools to get out. This is so intense and claustrophobic a film that you have to re-watch it just to see what you missed the first time — while you were looking away in horror.

-Liz Braun