"But I think I see a lotta lawbreakers up in this house tonight."
Adam is placed on assignment to a roofing job that Mike shares. Adam has anger issues, and we're later told that he earned a football scholarship before throwing it away when he fought with the coach during the first workout. Adam is soon fired under suspicion of stealing; later he inadvertently runs into Mike in Tampa's Ybor City before accompanying him into a nightclub. Drinks are had and girls are picked up until Mike passes out a flyer for Xquisite--an adjoining male strip bar where he works.
Soon, Adam is introduced to Dallas, the owner of Xquisite (Matthew McConaughey) and his motley crew: Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), and yes, Big Dick Ritchie (Joe Manganiello). Looking to score some quick cash, Adam agrees to help out the night's set, acting as a prop manager. Soon though, Tarzan takes too much GHB (as you do) and passes out, forcing Dallas to shove Adam (nicknamed "The Kid") onstage to perform, unquestionably, the worst number ever executed in a strip joint.
For whatever reason, Adam is enthralled with the life that Mike (Channing Tatum) presents*. He indoctrinates himself in the fold, buying costumes, shaving his legs, and taking thrusting dancing lessons. He does this easily, probably because it's handed to him on a disreputable, sweaty platter. Adam comes across as very lazy, continuing to blame others for perceived slights that have afflicted him. He makes it clear that he doesn't do well with authority, and he doesn't wear a tie. It's tough to sympathize.
*It should be known by now that Tatum had a previous career as an exotic dancer in the Tampa area. He did this after dropping out of college and looking for work. Now, I'm not one to criticize someone's occupational decisions, but surely there were options to pursue other than undressing and shaking your junk around for money. Maybe it's the reserved man in me, but being nude on stage does not represent my joie de vivre. Then again, Tatum would later become a big movie star, marry Jenna Dewan, and now has the clout to greenlight pet projects. Maybe I should go size myself for a thong.
Money is good, he has his faithful followers, but Mike fancies himself an entrepreneur of sorts. His ultimate goal is open a custom-made furniture store, putting behind a life of indecent pleasures. This lifestyle change is seconded by Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn). Needless to say, she's unhappy with Adam's choice of profession, but a promise from Mike to protect her younger brother, at least temporarily quells her concerns. An evitable attraction materializes between the two, but it's transitory if their lives remain on the same path.
Adam is played by Alex Pettyfer. Pettyfer was primed to be the next-big-thing in Hollywood, with leading roles in I AM NUMBER FOUR, and BEASTLY. These two ended up to be massive flops, dimming his burgeoning celebrity. MAGIC is a more astute decision. Being a supporting player, Pettyfer doesn't need to carry the film on his own, putting the pressure on others more seasoned.
It's odd for me to say this, but Tatum really owns this performance. There's a confidence that Tatum evokes that's largely been absent in previous roles. It can be said some manner of this is due to Tatum's former life, but it's unfair to simply pin a certain comfort level on a past occupation. In truth, Tatum has grown immensely in front of the camera. For the longest time he was the weakest link of a film's cast, but here, Tatum carries MAGIC to several exceptional moments.
McConaughey is the most logical choice of all. He's been known to embrace a borderline lunacy in his roles (and his life). The fact that he can prance around in a leather vest and chaps while spraying fire, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that McConaughey accepted this assignment for free. There's been some buzz around the oft-shirtless actor for his performance (and it is enjoyable) but replace the strip club for a beach, put a toothbrush in his hand, and this is just another day at the office.
For a man that was supposed to be retired, director Steven Soderbergh continues to churn out pictures at an impressive rate. Like his earlier 2012 release, HAYWIRE, MAGIC thrives as the action amps up. As Mike and Brooke sit quietly and talk about their feelings, this is when the film suffers, and I found myself waiting for the story to shift back to the stage. Watching this, I was reminded of 1997's BOOGIE NIGHTS, by Paul Thomas Anderson. Each deal with the inner workings of sordid (and some would say misunderstood) institutions. MAGIC MIKE doesn't near the summit that its predecessor reached, but it's a testament to all involved that I had a great time watching some dudes take their clothes off.