Mike (Channing Tatum) is also known as Magic Mike - not in everyday life, but when he takes to the stage of a Tampa, Florida strip club to entertain the ladies though he doesn't wish to be a male stripper for the rest of his life. Mike has big dreams, and yearns to start his own business as after all he's not getting any younger and cannot or does not want to imagine himself as the fortysomething club owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) still taking his clothes off over ten years from now. Then one day when making a bit of spare cash on a construction site, he meets the aimless Adam (Alex Pettyfer)...
But his budding friendship with Adam perhaps means less than his budding relationship with Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn), though she is initially wary of him, and little wonder when Mike gets her brother into the male stripping business as a performer. Someone is being exploited here, and that's a theme which ran through the movie, but the question of who was taking advantage of whom shifted in its answers depending on the scene. Was Dallas (McConaughey perfectly cast) exploiting his team, or were the punters exploiting the strippers, or were the strippers exploiting the punters, or - you could go on, but as sex became a commodity the film wondered if this wasn't more about money.
Certainly when actual, heartfelt love enters into the story it was a matter of struggling to be heard over the din of good times and sleaze, often in combination, so much so that audiences complained this was so much about the stripping that any narrative was difficult to discern. It was true that director Steven Soderbergh tended to return to the mostly naked men prancing around onstage when it seemed there was a lull in the tension, but he approached these as if they were numbers in a musical, with themed skits and cheesy tunes on the soundtrack, not exactly Singin' in the Rain but you could see a Cabaret influence of Bob Fosse here to some extent. Therefore if all you were interested in seeing was unclothed, chiselled masculinity, there were regular doses to keep your spirits up.
Oddly, Soderbergh, working from Reid Carolin's script (and drawn from Tatum's experiences in stripping when he was a younger man), took an anthropologist's eye to the proceedings, so that it was not only the men but the women as well who were scrutinised, as if we were watching some curious parody of human mating rituals that only the tentative affair between Mike and Brooke can work towards some semblance in normal romance, if it manages to get a chance in this sundrenched world of sexploitaiton Brooke doesn't particularly want a part of. That Adam has thrown himself into this existence is testament to its attraction and its drawbacks, as the inevitable drugs problems begin to take hold: more advantage taken.
Adam is first coaxed into the club by Mike when the latter is scouting around for women to attend, and before he knows it Adam is being pushed in front of the audience, though whether this is what Dallas planned all along is not exactly clear; you wouldn't put it past him, let's say that. Rather than an item of pure camp trash, like a male Showgirls, this was more an American variation on the British The Full Monty, except in these surroundings far more glamorous than a night out in Sheffield could ever dream of being. Nevertheless, the social circumstances bringing the artistes to this point in their lives was a concern, though not as emphasised in this case as Adam seems to have found his calling, but Mike desperately wants his furniture business to get off the ground, his poor credit rating and the world financial collapse making a loan impossible for him to get. Finally, the glitz of the nightclub is shallow, and Mike and Brooke's connection is valid, very fairy tale, but this dealt in, yet didn't quite accept, fantasies of many kinds.
Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.
Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky.