Maverick film-maker Steven Soderbergh has become increasingly prolific and eclectic when it comes to finding sources of inspiration. After working together on Haywire, Soderbergh found the muse in Channing Tatum’s real-life ascension from stripping to the Hollywood stratosphere – hence, Magic Mike.
Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is a directionless college drop out struggling to make ends meet when he meets Magic-Mike (Channing Tatum) a stripper (and budding entrepreneur) who introduces him to the money, partying and debaucherous lifestyle of male stripping.
Steven Soderbergh mixes a sobering amount of voyeuristic viewing of the pulsating male body with his characteristic yellow hews in the daylight hours of Magic Mike‘s Tampa setting. But instead of them seeming self-serving or ‘characteristic’, there’s a necessity to make the daylight colourless and oppressive compared to the vibrant and colourful nocturnal ‘stripper’ life. There’s a composed coveting in the staging of the dance scenes, but the choreography is at it’s best to heighten the rush for Magic-Mike on stage and the frenzy that his performance stirs up. Reid Carolin’s script is tight and the dialogue resonates but unfortunately a distracted 3rd Act ‘problem’ for Adam (Pettyfer) and the telegraphed ending diminished the impact.
Channing’s Mike balances the confidence and charm of, let’s face it ladies and gents, an aesthetically perfect specimen with a contemplative hindsight. Tatum relishes performing in his semi-autobiographical, passion project and he enunciates a deeper and more nuanced character that authentically reflects his personal experience.
Matthew McConaughey is glorious as the slime ball chief stripper and announcer of the club Dallas. His palpable narcissism is such a funny play on what you actually think that McConaughey would be like in real life. You will consistently chuckle every moment that he’s on screen espousing ‘wisdom’. This is career best stuff.
Support from Alex Pettyfer’s nihilistic Adam provides a good counterpoint to Mike, but Cody Horn’s single expression and distractingly Julia Stiles ‘look-a-likeness’ was jarringly hollow.
Magic Mike features great performances from Tatum and McConaughey; it’s well guided by the assured directorial eye of Soderbergh but the slavishly conventional resolution made me keep the larger bills in my pocket.
and a half
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Joe Manganiello and Olivia Munn
Magic Mike opens in Australia on the 26th of July 2012 and is already released in the USA.