A stripper movie for smart people. Magic Mike has stunning cinematography and elaborate choreography inside the club where Mike (Channing Tatum) and all the others studs gyrate and touchdown their female patrons. Male strippers might not make money as easily as female strippers, but in an early scene we see Mike touting and promoting at a mainstream club as he ropes in girls just turned 21. The sex appeal also isn’t just the moves, but in the talk, the performance, the ham-it-up soliloquies – seduction is the root package. The costumes are important: We see military men, firemen, cops, construction workers and Tarzan all in one given night. This elaborate change of scenarios, the revue aspect that juggles up the fantasy of men in “action” to entertain women, make it different than strip clubs for men where only one set of lingerie is needed for a performer to satisfy her customers for the night.
“Magic Mike” would suck under the hands of most directors, and I mean, most. Steven Soderbergh is one of the best directors we have, a journeyman interested in harvesting a vast range of genres and then, well, conquering them with visual and intellectual vivisection. “sex, lies and videotape,” (1989), “King of the Hill” (1993), “Out of Sight” (1998), “Traffic” (2000), “Ocean’s 11” (2001), “Solaris” (2002), “The Girlfriend Experience” (2009), “Contagion” (2011) and “Haywire” (2012) among them. You might have noticed how each of those films have distinctive color plates and a specific keen observance to location detail in them. Here’s also a film that acknowledges contemporary economic challenges.
Tampa, Florida is the venue this time. Soderbergh draws out a city where the rich party with the rich, the poor pose as rich so they can party with the rich. Mike has been around for a few years, but he’s always hustling. He has LTD’s in various businesses that deal with construction, auto body work, and hopefully one soon in custom furniture. He does roofing sometimes during the day for twenty bucks an hour, and early in the movie, he recruits the flaky and aimless Adam (Alex Pettyfer) to the club. Yes, it’s one of those protégé movies where the mentor experiences first doubts and contemplations about how his occupation is leading his life.
The cash-grab opportunities are appealing, but in an after dark lifestyle where you’re trying to stay up all the time, as well as erect, it’s easy to see how others are hustling sex and drugs at you. Our heroes get a private sorority girl gig that goes awry when ecstasy pills get integrated into the performance. This sets off a chain reaction of predicaments for Mike, the veteran who is now playing father to the screwed up kid. “Magic Mike” is a thrilling dance movie with all the right moves (women will like it as a candy store, guys will want to use this stuff for the bedroom), but it does dip slightly into bummer mode for a few minutes.
While Mike is trying to shape up Adam, he gets enthralled by his conventional sister Brooke (Cody Horn). Watching Mike chase down Brooke – she’s a good girl who responsibly pays her bills on time – is the only aspect of the movie that doesn’t really work, since Horn has no charisma. Mike for the most part, with his handsome lug persona, can just let the women draw forward to him if he’d let it.
In a strange way that’s a bit psychologically unexplained, yet dormant, Mike is caught in a number of three-ways in the film whether it be sexual, or business, or friendship entanglements. If there is a man who is completely his own in the film, it’s Daddy-O club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) who has found sly ways to exploit his staff (he dreams of opening a club in Miami). Dallas has found a structure in his life to blend fun and commerce together, but money always come first. Simply put, McConaughey puts on a dazzling ringmaster of a performance. With this and “Bernie” from earlier this year, he’s never been better.
Cutting it up on the dance floor with your jock hanging long is exciting for awhile, but Mike grows up when he sees how immature his protégé is. But for the viewer it is an endlessly entertaining and vicarious experience. “Magic Mike” also reaffirms that strip club music is often better than real club music.
110 Minutes. Rated R.
DRAMA / SEXY IMAGES / WEEKEND VIEWING DEBAUCHERY
Film Cousins: “Flashdance” (1984); “Cocktail” (1988); “Boogie Nights” (1997); “The Wrestler” (2008).
Official movie website: click here.