When I first saw the adverts for Magic Mike, I thought, ‘Oh no, it's Showgirls meets The Full Monty', however I was perplexed somewhat that Oscar winning director Stephen Soderbegh was at the helm. He's delivered some brilliant films over the years, including Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Solaris, although his work of recent has not been as impressive, namely Haywire and Contagion.
However, with Magic Mike, he has given us is a crowd pleasing, energetic, realistic behind-the-scenes look at the glamorous but shady lives of the stripping community, in a tight, well scripted gem of a movie.
The premise: Channing Tatum plays Magic Mike, the lead of a troupe of strippers in the nightclub Xquisite. He takes The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing, and introduces him to the owner of Xquisite, played energetically by Matthew McConaughey. The story is simple – it's three months in the journey in the life of two of the strippers, as well as the obligatory romantic interest. Tatum's Mike, in his 30s, is desperately trying to be the entrepreneur he wants to be, and is having difficulty in reaching his goals. The Kid, who has now been opened up to a whole new world of stripping, falls into the trappings the lifestyle offers – namely the depravity and excesses of both sex and drugs. At the heart of the film though is The Kid's sister Paige, played by Cody Horn, who is excellent as the grounded and often disapproving sister, concerned about her brother's behaviour.
From the opening scene, temperatures rise as McConaughey parades in leather on stage to a bunch of hungry women, introducing us to the rules of Xquisite. It's a bit like the rules of Fight Club, but in many ways very different! The next scene is again a very gratuitous bedroom scene with Tatum and a friend, shortly after we are given a hilarious 'pumping' scene featuring the incredibly handsome Joe Manganiello (from True Blood), who plays Big Dick Richie. You should be getting the picture by now – lots of nudity and muscle to please gay men and straight women alike!
The film also gives us many crowd pleasing dance/stripper routines, including strippers dressed as cowboys, doctors, Tarzan, police and fireman. Not only does the film deliver on this level, but the underlying theme of debauchery and sleaziness behind-the-scenes of the club is evident. Drug taking and dealing are in abundance, where those living the lifestyle believe it to be glamorous and wonderful, whilst those on the outside see the truth and emptiness behind it. The film also has sharp dialogue and many of the conversations seem real rather than scripted.
This film is Tatum's journey. Whilst he is mentoring The Kid he starts to realise that he is living an empty, vain and self-destructive lifestyle and needs to make the decision of settling down and basically grow up, thanks to the sobering influence of Paige.
At one point the film does seem to be losing direction, as the mood suddenly becomes much darker, but it all falls back neatly into place with a good rounded but predictable ending.
One of the funniest scenes is where McConaughey is teaching Pettyfer how to work the stage with various thrusting methods, genius! Channing Tatum struts and dances around the film looking very buff and square jawed as he steals most of the scenes he is in. Not only is he very pleasing on the eye, but this film (along with 21 Jump Street) should propel him to leading A list status. He is an amazing dancer, has great comic timing, and also gives his character depth. Tatum also produced this film, as it's partly based on his own experience as a young man working as a stripper.
Overall Verdict: A great little film, whilst the men and boys are off to see Batman and Spiderman, the gays and girls will be flocking to the cinema in droves for this, just as they did for Sex and The City.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater