Reviews

Magic Mike

3

Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey strip for Steven Soderbergh

Magic Mike? More like magic marketing.

Emphasising the hen party appeal, Steven Soderbergh packed them in for weeks en route to a bigger UK box-office haul than Contagion and Haywire combined.

Either seemed a more likely mainstream hit, but memories of The Full Monty - and expectations of seeing its stars’ assets - won the day.

But were the ladies having too much fun to notice Soderbergh’s downbeat credit-crunch satire?

Channing Tatum’s Mike is the star of the Xquisite Club, but his difficulties off-stage showcase a nimble, nuanced study of recession-hit America.

The metaphor isn’t forced; this is just a decent guy who finds the easy money of grinding his crotch into hysterical women’s faces too much to resist.

It’s a study in frugality and excess, in which Mike’s careful straightening of dollar bills can’t iron out every last crinkle from the cavalier shower of money thrown at the strippers.

He’d rather be investing, but nobody’s buying his crazy schemes. So those routines double as an ironic, melancholy echo of his real life, as Mike role-plays various careers - policeman, builder,  hoodie’d criminal - but is always stripped back to nothing.

With quiet detachment, Soderbergh observes how Mike slots in between Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas - the club owner still eking out his dreams in chapless trousers, who Mike might one day become - and Alex Pettyfer’s stripping virgin Adam.

Another film might have focused on the cautionary tale of Adam’s journey from naive newcomer to shallow jerk.

True, a sorority house party recalls Boogie Nights’ later stretches, yet Reid Carolin’s script avoids cliché by focusing on Mike.

Tatum shines in a fragile character study based, in part, on his own pre-fame career as a stripper. Mike is Five Easy Pieces’ Bobby Dupea with better abs: a soulful, creative type disguising himself as a blue-collar jock.

Soderbergh’s languid long takes tease out the contradictions, especially during Tatum’s conversations with Cody Horn. In contrast, Pettyfer and McConaughey are playing cartoon characters... but that’s the point, giving Tatum something to kick against while sweetening the script’s bromides.

Pettyfer sacrifices first-act subtlety to play up Adam’s superficiality, while a rejuvenated McConaughey drip-feeds the Mephistophelean menace of Killer Joe back into his natural laidback groove. The film’s most knowing gag sees McConaughey banging on his bongos, keepin’ on livin’.

No wonder the hens kept throwing their cash at the screen.

Film Details

Most Popular