Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matthew McConaughey
Running Time: 110 min
Release: 11 July
Magic Mike begins with Dallas (McConaughey) explaining the rules of his stripping establishment, which boils down to where you can and can’t touch the performers. He closes his opening sermon with the wry acknowledgement that these are merely the rules, and there seems to be a lot of rule breakers in the club tonight. There are rules, sure, but doesn’t breaking them sound like a mighty good time? Oh, you betcha.
The titular Mike is Channing Tatum, working from a script loosely based on his own experiences as a male stripper. Mike has several side businesses with which he supplements all the one dollar bills jammed down his jockstrap by screaming women, but here is where he seems to come alive, as the main attraction in Dallas’s Exquisite All Male Dance Revue.
And what a Revue it is. With Mike taking Alex Pettyfer’s Adam under his arm and dubbing him The Kid, the audience follows as he’s introduced to the world of shaved torsos and jiggling buns at breakneck speed, pausing only to show how much fun he’s having and to hint at the cost inherent within. After The Kid’s relative stardom has been established, the focus is shifted back to Mike himself—his ongoing series of threesomes with Joanna (Olivia Munn), his serious (i.e. Not eligible for threesomes) interest in Adam’s sister Brooke, his money troubles and his fear that he’ll always just be a guy who takes his clothes off for money.
Following 21 Jump Street and Public Enemies, Magic Mike is further proof that Tatum is no longer just that meathead from Step Up. He still dances, but that just because—like being charming and funny—he’s really, really good at it. A producer’s credit here even further shows his commitment to making movies on his terms, and his performance here should do him a lot of favours in that regard, as he excellently grounds the huge shifts in tone by being the embodiment of them; sure this lifestyle can be a lot of fun, but it can utterly destroy you too.
Good as he is, he’s brilliantly backed up by Pettyfer, whose innocence gives way to something much uglier as the movie goes on, the validation and freedom provided by his new career showing his true colours, which are garish and far less pretty the longer you look. Soderbergh gets great performances out of almost everyone, but special mention does also have to go to the hilariously sleazy McConaughey, who seems determined to make it impossible to watch him as a romantic lead ever again.
Not content with coaxing excellent performances from all comers, Soderbergh also seems set on making this movie look incredible, with the glitz and jump-cutting of the dance scenes bleeding seamlessly into the distortion and discomfort of the boys’ after-hours debauchery.
Good as the film is, it does have to take some knocks for the script. Depicting real life experiences can be somewhat unwieldy, and the relative convenience of one major plot point is contrived in the extreme, seeming to exist only to give the film a conventional ending point. With that as its only problem though, Magic Mike remains a quite remarkable film: funny, clever, heartfelt and wonderfully entertaining.