If anyone can make a male stripper movie and make it watchable, fun, lively, and charming, it’s Steven Soderbergh.
Soderbergh, known for his other films which include “sex, lies and videotape,” “Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich,” and “Ocean’s Eleven” (the remake), is arguably one of the most diverse directors working today. He makes both big-budget Hollywood films and art-house films, frequently working with the same actors.
Earlier this year he directed “Haywire,” a brilliant and exciting action film starring MMA star Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, and Channing Tatum. Tatum must have struck the right chord with Soderbergh, having been cast as the lead in “Magic Mike” and in Soderbergh’s next film, “The Bitter Pill,” set to release February 2013. Tatum has already appeared in three films this year, including “The Vow” and “21 Jump Street,” and his career has only just begun to flourish. Ironically, Tatum’s first gig was stripping at a local nightclub, and it wasn’t until 2006’s “Step Up” that the actor was noticed in Tinseltown.
The film opens and we are introduced to Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the owner of a popular male strip club in Tampa. He stands up on stage shirtless, dressed in tight leather pants and a black cowboy hat, teasing his female audience for the show that’s about to come. Mike (Tatum) is the show’s starring act, although he works in construction during the day and is trying to open up his own custom furniture business with the cash he’s received as tips while performing onstage.
As the film progresses, we meet the rest of the strippers who work at Dallas’ club: Ken (Matt Bomer), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), and Tito (Adam Rodriguez).
At his construction job, Mike meets Adam (Alex Pettyfer), the new kid in town, who first annoys Mike like a pebble in his shoe, but the two quickly connect and a “bromance” starts to ensue. Mike introduces Adam to his stripper lifestyle and, soon after, Dallas throws him up on stage to see what the young kid can do. Adam’s worrisome older sister Brooke (newcomer Cody Horn) doesn’t care for her brother’s new job, but seems to be happy enough that he’s made some friends and is making money.
Normally, I think Pettyfer is a miscast actor (think “I Am Number Four” and the abysmal “Beastly”), but he does surprisingly well in this film. Manganiello is shockingly underplayed with little dialogue and screen time, but for what is missed of him, Tatum certainly fills up the movie’s screen time. This is without a doubt Tatum’s best performance to date, and the once-stripper is turning into an actor among actors.
Although the plot, trailers, and movie posters make the film out to be a girls-night-out party film, it’s so much more than that, and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with Soderbergh’s portrait of the stripper lifestyle.
Soderbergh’s film is much more than a male stripper movie. It’s perfectly cast and has a fantastic script that takes a darker turn mid-way through the film. The story is fluid, realistic, energetic, and Tatum creates a fascinating character to watch on screen.