Magic Mike’s Last Dance, 2023.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Starring Channing Tatum, Salma Hayek, Ayub Khan-Din, Jemelia George, Juliette Motamed, Vicki Pepperdine, Caitlin Gerard, Christopher Bencomo, Gavin Spokes, Ethan Lawrence, Nancy Carroll, Adam Rodríguez, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, and Matt Bomer.
Mike Lane takes to the stage again after a lengthy hiatus, following a business deal that went bust, leaving him broke and taking bartender gigs in Florida. For what he hopes will be one last hurrah, Mike heads to London with a wealthy socialite who lures him with an offer he can’t refuse… and an agenda all her own.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance is about love at first dance. It’s a film in favor of the physicality carrying enough power and meaning to create romantic fireworks, let alone a spark. Regardless of its Valentine’s Day release slotting, it’s a romantic sentiment easy to buy into considering returning director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Reid Carolin understand that language and how to depict it on-screen in ways not only steamy and erotic but overflowing with passion, liberation, and fulfillment.
During a sexually charged routine between a man and woman set to Permission to Dance, Channing Tatum’s retired male stripper Mike Lane says that once permission is earned, it has to be kept through connection. It’s one of many lines that land with impact, reverberating throughout the narrative, cementing that these filmmakers (alongside Channing Tatum’s knowledgeable experience as a once-upon-a-time stripper in real life) have a firm grasp on the inner details and hidden meanings of every gyration, dry-hump, and balletic step.
However, Magic Mike’s Last Dance is not limited to his perspective, as perhaps more than anyone, it is about frustrated, separated socialite foster mom Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek). While hosting a Miami party, she is told by an old friend of the bartending Mike (a random encounter) the skinny regarding his past career. Thus begins a stunning private dance routine that awakens newfound life and vigor within Max.
It’s also of great quality that Steven Soderbergh shoots these sequences with dignity and respect rather than going the route of cheap and tacky; even when the clothes are coming off in absurd, overblown fashion, there’s artistic craftsmanship to the production design and lighting.
Still relatively directionless in life and looking to financially pay back his old crew (briefly seen through video chat cameos), and most importantly, easily persuaded by Max, Mike hops on a plane the next day with her to London after receiving an offer for a secret job. It turns out that Max’s soon-to-be ex-husband owns a respected theatre establishment, although one that puts on stage plays with outdated views on love (it’s a choice between either a crappy rich guy or a poor man with a heart of gold.)
Mike’s task is to redesign the show from the ground up, adding a flare of sexiness while coordinating with Max to reshape the narrative from the female lead’s perspective (charmingly funny newcomer Juliette Motamed whose character is also fed up with the writing, amusingly and possibly speaking for most modern women exclaims that she wants some good dick).
While Mike and Max recruit some dancers and work on the right angle for injecting such eroticism into a play, they naturally fall further in love even if neither of them is quite sure how to express it. Regardless, Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek have sizzling chemistry, whether grinding all over one another or bickering as a mechanism for struggling to spit out their true emotions.
The film’s structure also allows Steven Soderbergh and Reid Carolin to parse out what a story from a female perspective should look like. While it might be a bummer that no woman has a writing credit and doesn’t necessarily reach anything profound, they seem to have the right idea and occasionally use that framework to deconstruct filmmaking.
That’s not to say Magic Mike’s Last Dance is without sequel tropes, but much like the second entry Magic Mike XXL, it’s a completely different narrative in purpose and tone, this time highlighting what women want and the female gaze more than ever before. It’s up for debate whether Steven Soderbergh makes the most of the family dynamic as well, but there is one emotionally rewarding moment with Max’s teenage daughter (played by Jemelia George). Even when the dance routines feel familiar, the context is different. Most importantly, a climactic showstopper set in the rain is exquisitely shot and performed.
Yes, Magic Mike’s Last Dance covers familiar ground, which may result in another failed relationship. Still, the crowd-pleasing dancing is intoxicating, and its love for the power of dance is as well articulated as the gyrations themselves. Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek scorch their way through the material.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com