A twenty something male stripper takes a troubled young man under his wing and introduces him to a strange new world of excess and hidden dangers.
Given the promotional material ahead of its release, you would be forgiven for thinking that Magic Mike
is a day-glo, fun filled comedy, complete with plenty of tanned, toned torsos and dance numbers to satisfy any crowd who finds such things attractive. And it is all those things but also a little darker and fundamentally more interesting that you might expect.
That’s because this is not only a Steven Soderbergh
movie, the Oscar winning director of Traffic
and Erin Brockovich
, but is also directly inspired by the real-life stripping past of lead actor Channing Tatum
. Together, they create a tantalising glimpse at a world few of us have any access to, framing the world through the eyes of Adam (Alex Pettyfer
) – a new addition to the stripping ranks who soon gets caught up in the delights it has to offer.
This is, first and foremost, Tatum’s
gig and he gives a stand out performance. Mike is an unrepentant charmer, something which has been useful in his life up to now. But as he attempts to go legitimate with a move into a business of his own (custom furniture, naturally) his aggressive over-confidence becomes a double-edged sword. He’s a good guy but a wily script and Tatum’s
own skills add more layers than you might expect. He also handles the comedy well and throws some astounding shapes during the many dance scenes.Pettyfer
doesn’t have much to do as the ingénue stripper but manages to be more convincing than usual but it’s Matthew McConaughey
who threatens to steal the show with only a handful of scenes. Fresh from his revelatory performance in Killer Joe [read our review],
he makes for a sinuous club boss, a businessman with an eye on expansion and a keen sense of exactly what he’s selling. Apart from a small (but memorable) role for Olivia Munn
, model Cody Horn
makes up most of the vocal female cast. She’s not the worst performer ever but there’s little doubt that her father (Warner Bros president Alan Horn) had something to do with her casting.Soderberg
has a history of taking on new genre challenges in everything from ensemble comedy heist flick Ocean’s Eleven
to last year’s action number Haywire
. In this varied career, Magic Mike
doesn’t seem like too odd a choice – it has some meaty drama, a flawed protagonist and an introduction into a seedy otherworld complete with drug connections. And throughout you’ll find the energetic camera work we’ve come to expect, lensed by the director himself under the pseudonym Peter Andrews
, complete with deeps layers of coloured lighting and exceptional editing, again by Soderbergh
manages to deliver a fun dance movie, complete with gentle comedy and plenty of honed abs, while also cramming in some effective drama and an engaging look at a character desperately trying to escape the entertainment underbelly. A surprising treat and one you should seek out.