DIR: Steven Soderbergh • WRI: Reid Carolin • PRO: Reid Carolin, Gregory Jacobs, Channing Tatum, Nick Wechsler • DOP: Steven Soderbergh • ED: Steven Soderbergh • Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn
By day, Mike (Channing Tatum) is busy at one of his many jobs; construction worker, auto-parts dealer, furniture designer. But by night, he transforms into Magic Mike, the star of Dallas’ (Matthew McConaughey) all-male stripper show in Tampa Bay, where he performs alongside a bevy of muscular studs (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez) to a throng of screaming, dollar-throwing females of all ages. One day Mike bumps into The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) and through a string of coincidences, ends up shoving him on stage when one of their crew falls ill, and wouldn’t you know it, The Kid looks good in his underwear.
And so begins an Obi-Wan/Luke relationship, with Mike taking The Kid under his wing to show him the highs (and inevitable lows) of the world of male stripping. Straight off the bat, this is not a male version of Showgirls. Directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) and based in part on Tatum’s own experiences as a stripper, there are two ways to enjoy this movie; (1) As an excuse to enjoy all of the well-toned flesh on stage. There is A LOT of it, and it has to be sad that the dance sequences are pretty impressive. Or (2) An argument could be made that this film is an essay in modern-day male bonding, or in the relatively recent invention of ‘Bromance’, or the reacquisition of male sexuality, or whatever reasons uptight straight males have to give in order to go see a fun movie that just happens to have guys shaking their butts in ass-less chaps.
Tatum brings his usual puppy-dog charm and carries the film well, Pettyfer continues to have one of the most punchable faces in modern cinema, but that serves him well for this particular role, and the rest of the supporting cast are fine, with a standout being McConaughey, who brings the same sleazy sexuality and inherent threat level he presented in Killer Joe, but dialled way down to a less homicidal, but more entertaining level here.
If there are any faults, it’s that considering the movie’s primary fan base will be women, the women in the movie are very poorly represented. There are only two worthy of note; one (Olivia Munn) being a bisexual wingman for Mike, and the other (Cody Horn) is supposed to be Mike’s romantic interest/soul salvation, but is such a constantly moaning harpy that it’s hard to ever warm to her. Also, as inevitable and supposedly necessary as the ‘If you have too much sex, alcohol and drugs, there’s going to be a downside’ arc is, the fallout scenes with hollow sex with strangers, hangovers and overdoses are still a total bummer and drag down the whole fun, frivolous vibe the film had going until that point.
But aside from these gripes, Magic Mike is still an easy to enjoy movie, with Soderbergh bringing some of his distinctive camera work and editing to make what could have been a trashy night out into a visually interesting, well told story about oiled up guys who don’t like wearing clothes.
Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Magic Mike is released on 13th July 2012