Magic Mike ★★½

Magic Mike is maybe the most egregiously 2012 film in existence, with only the plausible second-place finish to Korine’s Spring Breakers, which of course has plenty of other parallels to this film specifically, so much so as much as I want to say it is more Harmony than Soderbergh and it would be entirely justified from a certain angle, holy shit at the same time this is ever the biggest quantum leap I could point to in the evolution of Soderbergh’s approach to storytelling and visualizing, editing his feverish ideas, more specifically actually a bit of a return to form or step back to the aggressive, blurry-eyed feel of his earlier career now coated instead in a thick slathering of more similarly A24ish, brisk while innocuous one-off indie-centrism.

Now, that being said as much as the style is unbelievably tight and paints its Tampa Bay landscape like an image straight out of Bad Boys this is also Steven at his peak of style over substance, for all that effective imagery offering up a raunchy tale of drugs, money, hoes that aside from just the pretty broad subject matter quickly becomes a lot, a lot of the same, the whole thing’s like 50% stripping oriented scenes and then fills out, more like connects the dots in crayon to the rest of the runtime with two sections of progressive highs and lows for our characters that inevitably also end up being the same thing twice from an aesthetic perspective, not helped by the limited amount of locations featured here in direct spite of the teasing at a sprawling Miami and Tampa night scene that appears from our sheltered angle as a viewer so much more compelling than that one club interior and Tatum’s Clockwork Orange furnished bachelor pad (yeah, maybe I should have held out on praising the low budget if we’re honest).

Hell, I didn’t even really dig the stacked cast as much as I think I was supposed to considering it is the posse cut aspect that seems like it’s meant to sell the parts of the film with less to offer narratively, well yeah they have that and a lot of Tatum’s bare ass for marketing purposes, but oddly enough the second draw is what worked better at getting me invested, not like the ass side of it just to say this is far and away the best performance Tatum has ever, and sadly it seems will ever put in, the biggest shocker of all coming in how his usual stiff pretty boy deliveries are here replaced for a self-aware deconstruction, of well, himself basically, interjecting a fluid stutter and some very ‘Social Network’ esque (or I guess just very Sorkin-esque cause he tends to do this a lot) “verbal hiccups” to break off trains of thought and allude to his real motivation behind every word, not to mention giving off a sense of the scatterbrained anxieties boiling beneath the surface of a guy flaunting around in toe with a pitiful facade of a worry-free attitude and having all his ducks in a line, a few specific times going so grandiose with his debunking of Mike it spins off into various tangents or confrontations that give off the air that they just had to have been improvised, which, if you think about it is a good play on the real dynamic of the protagonists life for as much as he pretends to be on the up and up.

Like I gotta be honest, for the way it functions as a pretty intriguing character study at times even taking the opportunity to look at the stigma that keeps people trapped in a self-fulfilling cycle of rejection simply for associating with the sex industry and yeah even though the scene in question here is a lazy replica of a moment from Boogie Nights, even on the back burner, even in it’s most lazy moments this still kicks ‘Hustlers’ ass in pretty much every way imaginable except for maybe a bit of pacing and entertainment value and I’ll take an Ocean’s 11 ensembles with traces of Showgirls directed by, for as much as I have come to resent it, stylistically audacious man Soderbergh featuring male strippers before I’ll ever think of praising a half-assed attempt at Goodfellas with a half-naked J-Lo (seriously though filmmakers have like a starkly consistent track record of making these inherently interesting topics just read as desperately uninteresting, like stripping, a whole world unto itself already and you're also saying we are going to have a surplus of extra wild ass dudes involved, how is that really this boring all said and done). There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you and for all its warts that is Magic Mike through and through. If we want to go back to Spring Breakers for a second it isn’t necessarily the people that push a medium forward that have the prescience to perfect it, and if anything that’s what I’ll take away from an overall positive experience with Magic Mike.

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