In May's TEXAS MONTHLY, writer-at-large Christopher Kelly worried that Matthew McConaughey's turn in the male stripper movie Magic Mike would interrupt a string of more ambitious independent film roles, including Bernie, Killer Joe, and Mud.
"Mr. Just-Keep-Livin’ doesn’t seem to have entirely abandoned us," Kelly said of McConaughey's "shirtless and oiled-up" supporting turn as Dallas, the MC and owner of the strip club that is Magic Mike 's primary setting.
Now, Steven Soderbergh's film has opened, and McConaughey's performance is earning him some of the best reviews of his career.
"Hilariously self-parodying," wrote David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter of McConaughey's performance, while the headline on the Tampa Times review enthused, "With strong McConaughey performance, Tampa's thong life sparkles in 'Magic Mike.'"
Some more of what the critics had to say about the Longview native son and Austin resident:
- Deliberately echoes such iconic films as “Shampoo,” “American Gigolo,” and “Boogie Nights,” in which shiny, sexy surfaces hide dark and creepy interior worlds ... McConaughey is positively crackling as a preening, scheming peacock, infusing his role with personal touches and self-deprecating humor. He steals every moment he gets.
Shawn Levy, the Oregonian
- [H]e presides over the club like a beefcake version of the MC from Cabaret, setting just the right tone for the club by mixing undeniable sexiness with cheeseball charm. There is no better actor for such a part than McConaughey, who inhabits the role while occasionally using it to send up his own public image. (Bongos make an appearance, as does the phrase “All right, all right, all right,” and when McConaughey wears a shirt, it usually isn’t a whole shirt.)
Keith Phipps, AV Club
- McConaughey['s] hipbones deserve a sequel and should probably be pressed into immortality outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) ... [H]is is a bold performance indeed.
Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
- Between this role and his owlish DA in the subversively sly Bernie, the actor has finally found a way to subvert his six-pack. He’s the magic here.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
- [I]t’s a pleasure to see Matthew McConaughey — a gifted actor who can’t hide his boredom in trivial work — finally settle into the role for which he was born.
Elizabeth Weitzman New York Daily News
One detractor was Karina Longworth of Village Voice Media. But her reservations were about the movie, not McConaughey:
As the still ogle-worthy old-timer, McConaughey is Magic Mike's most wasted asset. Dallas's onstage patter incorporates the actor's most identifiable catchphrase—"all right, all right, all right!"—which he injected into the popular imagination via Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. In that film, McConaughey's Wooderson was the older guy who continued to hang around teenagers, almost vampirically. Twenty years later, McConaughey is essentially performing the same function here. But why? At the most fascinating moment in his career, McConaughey gets stuck in an underwritten role that demands physical exposure, but is (sorry) only skin-deep.