Film Review: Magic Mike
The fine line between exploitation and empowering fetishism of the stripper movie is promptly shattered in favour of Magic Mike’s ripped cast. Although, given the spotty pedigree of stripper flicks (Flashdance easily leading the charge, The Full Monty in tow and the less said about Showgirls-well, you know the rest) it’s well within formula. Glamorisation does wonders for taboos: Stripping has its drawbacks-drugs, envy and pressure abound-but on film it’s a consistently alluring profession if you have the assets to flaunt. In fact, debate may rage as to whether or not Magic Mike’s stateside success may cause the same dance craze for stripping that Black Swan did for ballet. Speculation is for squares, review is here and now.
The comparison between sexualised honeys and oiled washboards may yet have been made; Magic Mike’s dudes are in total control of their impact on their swooning punters. Submission is off the cards, we’re in a totally different ballgame. But then, this is what Mike gets right. Reverting gender types in relation to striptease is nigh impossible, but the dividing factor in subjective terms is the enjoyment of being looked at but even when it comes to female striptease, contemporary norms still enforce myths of female subjugation.
As far as the entertainment itself is concerned, the premise here is a far easier fit for Soderberg than his lethargic execution of scuppered action vehicle Haywire, his muted green photography and smokey smooth pacing feels far more at ease when dispersing quips and sex appeal than when dealing blows. Curiously it’s in its third act that the ‘Berg-not-Spiel’ unleashes some oddly placed brawls that deal some remarkably brutal altercations between meathead jocks and its beefcake (often anti) heroes.
The hunks in question? The trio of muscle here are watchable if varying in stature. Channing Tatum overshadows Alex Pettyfer whilst a post-Killer Joe Matthew McConaughey is clearly slumming it with relish, emanating shades of macho menace not seen since his underrated turn as wacko merc Van Zan in the otherwise forgettable Reign of Fire. Tatum may play second fiddle, but comparing the two in this context is a lot like pitting Jascha Heifetz against Yo-Yo Ma. Same strings, different strokes. Tatum has magnetism and charm, and without a doubt he still has the moves from his dancing days. The bygone experience is brought out perfectly in mature and world weary fashion.
Pettyfer is the loose link here, although as with so many weak supporting roles, he’s not entirely to blame. Sure, his heartthrob status ensures that he’s perfectly seated as an aspiring ‘cock-rocker’ here. But his character is still left to fumble through several contrived events that undermine Soderberg’s understated indie stylings: including a botched housecall and a clumsy first-time striptease that culminates in a totally grey-area misstep (Pettyfer’s ‘The Kid’ snogs a client mid-strut) that would surely generate a restraining order, yet is praised as bold, so much so that it bags the underage (he’s 19 in the film) upstart the gig. A greater issue is that Pettyfer just isn’t magnetic enough, callow certainly, but he never fully develops in the grand scheme of the narrative, worse still, ‘The Kid’s’ onscreen antics (including popping ecstasy to a client at a Sorority party) just render him plain unsavoury. As far as we’re concerned; once a punk, always a punk.
The success of Magic Mike is the allure of the game, girls may swoon, guys may feel the urge to try it for themselves. But predicting a fad can’t conjure lightning, but there’s one thing for sure: there’s something for everyone in this night out.