Magic Mike

31 July 2012 | 4:38 pm | Ian Barr

Steven Soderbergh is sly. From the outset, his Magic Mike touts itself as something like the male equivalent of Coyote Ugly when it's really a languid character study of malaise and 'adriftness' in a urine-tinted Tampa Bay, Florida, among a close-knit group of sadsack male strippers. Each is united by their stage prowess as much as their dreaming of a better life, chief among them being Mike (Channing Tatum, whose past experiences as a stripper were Soderbergh's impetus for making the film). That 'dreaming big' for Mike entails moving to Miami to sell custom furniture is indicative of the film's unsentimental eschewal of the usual rise-and-fall trajectory.

The beefcake gyration performance scenes are its selling point, but the energetic choreography only serves to punctuate the mood of numbed inertia that Soderbergh sustains in the offstage screentime (ironic, month-announcing title cards wittily draw attention to just how little of consequence has happened in the elapsing time). A weak romantic interest (Cody Horn) and pat conclusion don't diminish much from an otherwise strikingly original and stylish curio that, like most of Soderbergh's recent output (Contagion, The Girlfriend Experience), looks better upon reflection.