Director: Steven Soderbergh.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn.
Review: Matt Neal.
LADIES everywhere will be setting aside their copies of 50 Shades Of Grey and lining up for tickets to see this movie.
The prospect of an entire movie about male strippers starring the ripped abs and naked butt cheeks of Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey will be the drawcard for many, but is it actually a decent film?
The answer is yes. Magic Mike is solid if slight, with some good laughs, interesting characters and career-best turns from Tatum and McConaughey.
Tatum, whose past as a stripper partially inspired the film, plays Mike - a construction worker, furniture builder and entrepreneur by day, and money-making male stripper named Magic Mike by night.
While working on a construction site he meets The Kid aka Adam (Pettyfer), a washed-up 19-year-old who lives on his sister's couch and has no money and nothing going for him.
Mike introduces Alex to his night-life, where he and a colourful assortment of characters get their gear off and grind on hordes of screaming drunken women.
In the wrong hands, this could have been a drab or cheesy rom-com with some shallow moralising. In the hands of Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven), Magic Mike becomes something more. While he can't quite get away from the simplicity of "drugs are bad, stripping is bad", he at least gives the daylight scenes a sense of reality - aided by naturalistic performances and good dialogue - and avoids most of the trappings of a traditional rom-com.
Contrasting the washed-out sepia tones of daytime Tampa Bay is the glitz and sparkle inside Xquisite, the club run by Dallas (McConaughey). While the guys might look nothing-special out the back in a flouro-lit cramped kitchen using drugs, drink and penis pumps to get ready for the show, once they're out on stage, Soderbergh's cinematography gets suitably glossier and the routines look professional and well choreographed (and slightly hilarious, particularly with wrestler Kevin Nash's Tarzan always a step behind).
The movie's best elements are its sense of humour, which is conversational and natural, and Tatum, who is utterly charming and equally at home with comedy (as he proved in 21 Jump Street and The Dilemma) as he is with full-blown dance routines (his breakthrough was Step Up). Tatum's pairing with Horn is mismatched at times but not distractingly so.
The ace up the film's sleeve is McConaughey. Calling this McConaughey's best performance is probably underselling it - after all, there's a lot of crud between his breakthrough Dazed & Confused and his recent excellent turn in The Lincoln Lawyer. But this is the role he was born to play - a predominantly shirtless semi-retired stripper with the gift of the gab and an ego as big as his house.
On the downside, Magic Mike is a bit thin and doesn't have a lot to say. It's also fairly predictable, but thankfully the film never drags, and even ends abruptly (in a good way) just when it seems to be running out of steam.