2012 Running time: 110 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4
KA Magic Mike

Synopsis

Channing Tatum plays Magic Mike, a buff male stripper who revels in the borderline sleazy world of easy women and easy money. He passes on the tricks of the trade to young newcomer Adam (Alex Pettyfer) but comes to regret his ethically dubious world. Director Steven Soderbergh puts on his populist hat for this side-splitting yet serious glimpse into a world of rippling pecs, mindless moves and sex seemingly on tap.

Director

  • Steven Soderbergh

Cast

  • Channing Tatum

  • Alex Pettyfer

  • Matthew McConaughey

  • Cody Horn

  • Olivia Munn

Review

Make no mistake about it - Steven Soderbergh is a serious film-maker and Magic Mike has all the hallmarks of a film with something serious to say: grainy wideshots, abrupt time cuts and a subject matter that lends itself as much to discussions of sexual politics as a cheeky girls' night out.

But what catapaults Magic Mike into the realms of The Full Monty and (almost) Boogie Nights, is not its ability to take seriously the subject of male strippers, but the fact that it does so without sucking all the fun out of it.

Because - and here's the good news for the gals and the guys in the audience - Magic Mike is a very funny film indeed.

Its heart (and muscle) is the eponymous stripper and wannabe entrepreneur Mike, played by the extraordinarily charismatic Channing Tatum.

Forget that sap from Dear John and The Vow - this is like an X-rated version of Step Up. The former professional dancer - and stripper (Tatum's own past was Soderbergh's inspiration) - oozes a very raw sort of sex appeal that will have women and men alike marvelling at his moves. Whatever you think about stripping there's no doubt that this man can dance.

Anyway, Mike meets a young and handsome down-and-out who is known throughout the films as The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) on a roofing job and, inadvertently, takes him under his wing. Mike works three days a week at Xquisite, a marginally successful male strip joint in Tampa, Florida, where men leave the stage every night with wads of twenties in their G-strings. After a trial-by-fire induction, Pettifyer decides he wants a piece of this business. "Money, girls and a good time," says his mentor - what's not to like?

The problem? Well, aside from the fact that, well, it is stripping after all, the problem is The Kid's sister Brooke, who, it turns out, Mike kind of likes. She kind of likes him too, especially after she sees him perform at the show, but she can't get her head round the stripping, and she certainly doesn't approve of 30-year-old Mike getting her 19-year-old brother involved in the whole sleazy affair.

Fortunately for Brooke, and the plot, Mike actually does have a dream though, and it isn't taking his clothes off but making what is possibly the ugliest looking custom furniture ever. If only some bank would see past his suitcase full of cash and give him a business loan.

Will he get out of the whole dirty business and settle down with nice girl Brooke? Or will he drag his naïve and impressionable protegee down before it's too late?

Soderbergh explores all this with a light touch and a keen eye for detail. There is no Damascene moment where either of the two protagonists renounce their profession. Instead, singular moments contribute to our and their growing understanding that this isn't all good, clean fun after all.

The film is soaked in a sort of sepia hue, which not not only lends it a slightly more serious air (Traffic had the same sort of look) but also brings to mind the sticky heat of a debauched Florida summer.

Slowly, the dancing becomes less sexy, more mechanical, and the world that facilitates it riddled with drugs, financial liability and danger. And once you've seen someone go to bed with the owner of a micropig and then wake up to find the creature nibbling on their upturned dinner from the night before, the sheen is pretty much gone for good.

Everywhere, though, are moments of humour to stop us getting too bogged down in the drama. A penis pump in the corner of a wideshot, a lesson in gyrating (complete with Matthew McConaughey as the club's smooth-talkin', leather-clad owner), the moment Brooke comes home to find her brother shaving his legs.

it's not at all sleazy, just likeably camp, and, like all good workplace movies, focuses on the employee camaraderie more than the romance, although the playful relationship between Mike and Brooke is also very well done. Tatum, Pettyfer and McConaughey all manage to emote vulnerability as well as machismo.

If this really is Soderbergh's last hurrah before retiring from Hollywood, as he has hinted it may be, then it's a wonderful one to end on, a magnificent hybrid of clever and comical that very few directors could pull off.

As McConaughey, in perhaps his best role ever, observes: "This is not a joke my man, this is a serious business."

Cut to: a muscley man at a sewing machine darning a tiny gold thong.

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