'La Bare': Film Review
"Magic Mike" actor Joe Manganiello debuts with a doc about a male strip club.
The nonfiction counterpart to Magic Mike—and a tide-me-over for those who need some beefcake before that film's planned 2015 sequel—Joe Manganiello's La Bare offers a very entertaining if only semi-illuminating introduction to what is said to be the world's most popular male strip club. The well-built doc lacks the big names that helped make Steven Soderbergh's 2012 film a surprise hit, but that feature's cachet will help this one at the box office, where it should play well at art houses before appealing on video to those too shy to see it theatrically.
La Bare Dallas is one of multiple Texas locations of a club that has operated for decades, and its Randy "Master Blaster" Ricks is an older but only slightly less colorful version of Dallas, the fictional ringleader played by Matthew McConaughey. Boasting 34 years as a male exotic dancer, this still-buff dude shows off his many Playgirl pictorials and claims that his fan base includes at least one family where he has entertained five generations of women. Though we don't meet any great-grandmothers here, Manganiello does spend time with some mothers and daughters who've proudly shared the strip-club experience.
As in the feature, Master Blaster is a guru for younger strippers, pairing the advice of his nutritionist mom (Mary Lou, a little old lady who couldn't be prouder of her son) with his own exercise regimen to get them as ripped as humanly possible. We get personal with a fair number of his proteges, from the slender, modest-ish newcomer who calls himself Channing to former dancer Nick, a boorish bro who has let his bod go to seed and now works as the club's DJ. The most interesting youngster is Cesar, a mohawked, face-pierced character who happens to be an ex-Army Ranger and claims to be terribly shy; describing himself as "extremely old fashioned," he says he has only slept with five women in his life—a far cry from most of his hard-partying coworkers.
About the seamier side of this lifestyle, the movie is sometimes coy. Once or twice, someone hints at the direct exchange of sex for money, but no one explicitly admits to being a prostitute. With some dancers claiming to have had fans make car payments for them, certain assumptions will be made. (And what did Master Blaster do for the woman who once left him a $75,000 cashier's check? Given the gauche riches that have sometimes flooded this city, he might well have done nothing but make the right woman feel pretty.)
Immediately following a comic sequence about the club's Amateur Night (which offers the film's only, accidental, live-action glimpse of male genitalia), the doc detours into tragedy: We hear about Angelo, "the Elvis Presley of La Bare," who was shot and killed in a testosterone-fueled after-hours altercation. His friends paint a rosy picture of the victim, admiring both his positive attitude and his ability to keep a harem of girlfriends who knew about each other and never complained.
But this sequence only gets truly dark—suggesting that the killer went free because authorities don't care much about the life of a male stripper—for a couple of minutes. The film quickly rebounds to bachelorette parties, stripograms, and other wish-fulfillment scenarios more gratifying to the egos of La Bare's lady-pleasing he-men.
Production company: 3:59 Incorporated
Director: Joe Manganiello
Producers: Joe Manganiello, Nick Manganiello
Director of photography: Andrew Wheeler
Editor: Chris Groban
Rated R, 89 minutes