magic mike
Thursday, 16 August 2012

Film Review: 17 August

Magic Mike proves there’s (a bit) more to male strippers than meets the eye

Written by Barry Norman


barry-normanBWThis is surely what they call a 'woman's picture'. I make that judgement based on the audience with which I saw it. There were only two men in the cinema. The women ignored us both, no doubt assuming that we must be gay – otherwise why would we be there? – and therefore neither dangerous nor interesting.

At this point and for the benefit of the uninitiated, I should point out that Magic Mike is a traditional backstage movie dealing with the sometimes comic, sometimes seedy, world of male strippers and presenting a cornucopia of young masculine flesh, all six-packs, rippling abs and pecs and taut, naked buttocks.

Feast your eyes, ladies. Or maybe not, because just beneath the surface, Steven Soderbergh's well-made film raises the question of whether stripping for the benefit of excited housewives and sorority sisters is really a proper job for a grown man, especially as the strippers' pay consists largely of dollar bills thrust down their thongs by aroused women.

The eponymous protagonist (Channing Tatum) is beginning to doubt it. He's a 30-year-old casual labourer who, several nights a week, under the stage name of Magic Mike, is the star attraction at Xquisite, a Tampa strip club run by the charismatic Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).

One day, while working on a building site, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old college dropout, who can't get a decent job because, on principle, he refuses to wear a tie, even for interviews.

That night they bump into each other again and Mike takes Adam to Xquisite where – one of the dancers being too drunk or too stoned to perform – the kid is thrust on stage and to the tune of Like A Virgin, does a clumsy strip.

The audience loves it; so does Adam, his jockey shorts stuffed with money. He's immediately hooked on stripping.

Significantly, Mike now meets Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn), a medical assistant, and there is mutual attraction, though she disapproves of the way he and her brother earn their living.

However, as if to prove that there is more to a male stripper than just a bulging jockstrap, Mike wants to start a furniture business but, because he deals only in cash, has no credit rating and can't get a bank loan. The only thing that keeps him in his present line of work is McConaughey's promise to give him a share in a new, bigger club he's planning to open in Miami.

So the questions are: will Mike move to Miami or continue with the furniture-making ambition? And where would Brooke fi t in? It's an engaging yarn in which nothing very dramatic happens (though a darker note intrudes when Adam gets involved in a drug deal that goes wrong) and has some sharp comments to make on America in this age of recession.

The ever-improving McConaughey is sadly underused but the performances throughout are excellent and the women in the cinema certainly enjoyed it immensely. I don't know what the other bloke thought, though.

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