by Tim Gordon
A young man using stripping as way to build a better life discovers that after the bright lights fade, he must face its challenging consequences in Magic Mike.
Based on Channing Tatum’s life narrative, he stars as the title character who has a variety of hustles going on simultaneously trying to save up enough money to relocate and start a new life. By day, he works in construction but when the sun goes down he morphs into the hunky, hard-body pleasure of women’s affection at club Xquisite when he transforms into Magic Mike.
He befriends a fellow co-worker, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and takes him under his wing, promising his overprotective sister, Paige (Cody Horn) that he will keep an eye on him. True to his word, soon Adam, now known as The Kid, is backstage at Xquisite as part of the stripper posse with club owner and former dancer, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). Fast money, fast women, readily available drugs and fun times ensue and it looks like it may never end.
Soon, Mike’s dream of getting out of the game hits a stumbling block as his relationship with the Kid and the constant challenges from Paige begin to take its toll. Even his close relationship with his mentor, Dallas begins to deteriorate as Mike’s blinders are removed and he sees the game for exactly what it is . . . and isn’t!
From Superfly to Scarface, we’ve seen countless stories of sensational highs to excruciating lows and Magic Mike is no different. Director Steven Soderbergh takes Tatum’s story and slowly peels away each painful layer stripping Mike to his core and forcing his and the audiences hand. Soderbergh is deft at pacing whether it’s in larger films such his Ocean’s franchise or his smaller fare such as Haywire or The Girlfriend Experience, which feels like a companion film to Mike.
Tatum, who I’ve been very critical of in the past, follows his funny performance in 21 Jump Street with the best performance of his career in this heavy story disguised as a fun night at the strip club for the ladies. Maybe because of his familiarity with this story, he seems more relaxed and natural in this role than any previous performance. McConaughey is also sensational as the veteran club owner who was calling out “lawbreaking” patrons one moment or reminding his employees that they are easily replaceable pawns in the strip game in the next. Horn also gives a solid performance as the woman who melts Mike’s heart and helps him to see what really is important in that his life as a performer is fleeting.
The story gets off to a thunderous raucous start before slowing on the way to its inevitable conclusion. Despite the fact that this ladies delight boasts several above-average performances and Soderbergh’s golden touch, the magic is not in his demise but his redemption.