Magic Mike

Czech title: Bez kalhot (without pants)

Magic Mike


Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum, Olivia Munn, Alex Pettyfer, James Martin Kelly, Cody Horn, Reid Carolin, George A. Sack, Micaela Johnson, Denise Vasi, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Gabriel Iglesias. Written by Reid Carolin.

With the biological thriller Contagion, the spy actioner Haywire, and now the male stripper drama Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh is in full genre filmmaking mode. The director has mentioned in interviews that he’s done with artistically ambitious works like Che; that would be disappointing, but there’s some real consolation in the fact that Soderbergh is able keep churning out highly polished genre work like this that puts similar mainstream fare to shame.

Magic Mike is just about the best film about male strippers imaginable. There are a lot different ways this material could go – campy, comedic, eroticized – but Soderbergh positions it as a serious drama, with the more salacious aspects presented in a straightforward manner. It isn’t about the stripping, it’s about the men who do it.

Mike (Channing Tatum) is a stripper and entrepreneur, looking to develop a custom-made furniture business, who dances at the Xquisite club in Tampa by night. By day, he works a construction job, which is where he meets young Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old college dropout who is lost in life and drawn to the appeal of woman, money, and a good time that Xquisite offers.

The club is run by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who leads a team of male strippers and reluctantly throws Adam out there when a dancer is needed. McConaughey, who spent years in rom-com hell, has a smaller role here, but he’s perfectly cast and continues a career resurgence that began with last year’s The Lincoln Lawyer and also includes roles in Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud, and The Paperboy in 2012.

Mike seems to live a good life – a nice house, sex with multiple partners including Joanna (Olivia Munn) – but there’s something missing. He may have found it in Brooke (Cody Horn), Alex’s level-headed sister who charges Mike with looking after her brother. Young Horn is a real standout here, commanding the screen away from the male cast in a breakthrough role.

Tatum, who co-produced the film, knows where his character is coming from; the actor previously worked as a dancer before making it in Hollywood. Tatum’s come a long way since Step Up; this is one of his most thoughtful and authentic performances.

In terms of story and style, Magic Mike is one of the most conventional features Soderbergh has made outside of the Ocean’s films. It’s also one of his most financially successful after just a couple weeks at the US box office.

Don’t be misled by the premise or advance advertising – this isn’t a film about cheap thrills, and there’s a near-total lack of nudity (at least, of the full frontal variety). Instead, Magic Mike is a rich and rewarding character study set against one of the most unlikeliest of places.

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