Total Recall: Channing Tatum's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Magic Mike star.
It takes guts to shake your moneymaker in public, let alone for a filmmaker as talented as Steven Soderbergh, so give Channing Tatum points for courage: That's exactly what he did in Magic Mike, the stripper drama that's thrusting its well-oiled abs into theaters this week. In honor of Channing's chutzpah, we decided to dedicate this week's list to his up-and-coming career -- which is still young, but contains more noteworthy films than you might initially suspect. It's time for Total Recall!
10. The Eagle
A particularly good-looking Roman war epic, 2011's The Eagle starred a sword-wielding Tatum as a centurion sent to a British outpost to command one of the empire's distant garrisons. Forced into an early retirement after being wounded in battle, he takes his slave (Jamie Bell) on a complicated quest to clear his long-missing father's name, running afoul of a vicious northern tribe in the process. The Eagle crash-landed at the box office, where audiences ignored it and critics generally dismissed it as a waste of time. New York Magazine's David Edelstein cast a dissenting vote in his review, however, enthusing that "Wild-eyed, long-haired Brits leap atop the Romans' shields as the soldiers blindly hack away, the bodies so close that you can barely tell the victor from the vanquished. The battles in the fog and rain have a hallucinatory power."
You have to respect a movie that sums up its entire plot in a single word -- or at least, that may have been the thinking behind 2009's Fighting, which reunited Tatum with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints director Dito Montiel to tell the story of a young NYC scam artist (Tatum) who finds himself drawn into the shady world of underground fighting by a skeevy ticket scalper (Terrence Howard). It failed to land much of a punch during its theatrical release, either with critics or consumers -- but a few scribes thought it was a winner, including David Denby of the New Yorker, who wrote, "The fights may not be very convincing, but the story's underdog structure is satisfying in a happy-cliché sort of way. Fighting is Rocky without the bombast, Fight Club without the daft metaphysical pretensions."
If starring in a teen rom-com loosely inspired by a Shakespeare play worked for Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, it might have worked for Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum, right? Alas, 2006's She's the Man failed to score a 10 Things I Hate About You-sized hit when it arrived in theaters, with audiences expressing a distinct lack of interest in seeing the fresh-faced duo attempt to put a modern teen spin on the classic cross-dressing comedy Twelfth Night. Critics were generally unkind, but some were able to find enough bright spots to offer positive reviews -- including the BBC's Neil Smith, who wrote, "Bynes tackles her part with gusto, while Tatum underplays his to striking effect."
Director Stuart Townsend employed an eclectic ensemble cast to recreate the infamous protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization conference, giving a pre-breakthrough (but post-Step Up) Tatum a chance to prove he could carry his own weight alongside dependable vets like Woody Harrelson and Charlize Theron. It wasn't a big hit, seeing only limited release, and a fair number of critics felt it did a poor job of putting the events it attempted to depict in sufficient context. But for others, Battle in Seattle's successes outweighed its failures; as Kirk Honeycutt argued for the Hollywood Reporter, "While it makes no bones about where its sympathies lie, these fictional stories show a genuine fascination with the role politics plays on both sides of such confrontations and how things can spin out of control with no single person to blame."
American audiences are well aware of the fact that their soldiers often have a hard time adjusting to life on the home front after war -- and they're not shy about avoiding movies that tell those soldiers' stories. Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss was no exception during its theatrical run, falling victim to the same commercial indifference that felled Rendition, Body of Lies, Green Zone, and others -- in spite of a hot young cast that included Tatum, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Phillippe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It was the audience's loss as far as the New Yorker's David Denby was concerned; he called Stop-Loss "forceful, effective, and alive, with the raw, mixed-up emotions produced by an endless war -- a time when the patriotism of military families is in danger of being exploited beyond endurance."