Less capital-a Actorly than Michael Fassbender, less discriminating than Tom Hardy, less British than Tom Hiddleston—is there another hot male superstar today who’s more comfortably ingratiated into the American mainstream than Channing Tatum? It’s a distressing fact of the industry that our cinema currently faces a dearth of capable leading gentlemen, which is perhaps why Taylor Kitsch continues to pass for a bankable celebrity and Taylor Lautner continues to exist. But Tatum seems the genuine article: he commands the screen not only with a strong chin and a six pack but with honest-to-goodness physicality, a quality long absent in movie stars.
It’s why Tatum’s not our Brando or even our Jimmy Dean; if anything he’s our Cagney, as suited to the muscle-head tough as he is the graceful dancer. Cagney made his name performing (and often choreographing) dance routines on the vaudeville circuit before breaking out as a gangster in “The Public Enemy”; Tatum’s early days as a stripper made him ideally suited to the “Step Up” series before “G.I. Joe” hardened his image. The best thing about both isn’t that they’re capable of pulling off such varied transitions, but that they draw out the connections between action-movie heroics and the hard-working elegance of dance. For Tatum everything is physical: whether he’s cracking skulls or busting moves, it’s all about the motion.
This weekend sees the opening of our modern Cagney’s latest hit, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, just the second of four blockbuster films this year. To ring in the celebratory occasion, we have compiled a list of the 5 best Channing Tatum films. And because “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is awful, we have also compiled a list of the 5 worst Channing Tatum films. Such is the Karmic wheel of Film.com:
1.) "Public Enemies" (2009)
Michael Mann’s most divisive film is also one of his most intriguing, and while it represents a step down from his previous masterpiece, “Miami Vice”, it is nevertheless an eminently sophisticated historical crime thriller. Tatum has a relatively minor role as bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd, offed by Christian Bale’s Agent Purvis at the end of a brisk opening chase scene. Hardly his most captivating role, but it’s still far and away the best film in which the young actor has appeared to date.
2.) "Magic Mike" (2012)
It’s Channing Tatum’s passion project, a hard look at the life of a young male stripper from an actor who once lived it himself. The result is one of prolific director Steven Soderbergh’s most interesting recent films, one which, even more impressively, features Tatum’s most intimate and personal performance. The former dance proves himself ideally suited to a film that, in purely formal terms, is a celebration of (well-oiled) bodies in motion.
3. "Haywire" (2012)
Another Soderbergh, another use entirely: here Tatum, along with Fassbender and Ewan McGregor, are employed in a bit of pointed role-reversal as masculine iterations of the Bond Girl cliche, smartly relegated to the role of eye candy. Tatum has the distinction of starring in the film’s most striking scene, a brisk and brutal diner-set fight that kicks off the proceedings and sets the tone for things to come.
4.) "Step Up 2: The Streets" (2008)
It’s a real shame that Tatum left the “Step Up” franchise right as it was getting good—he missed out on the best of the series, Jon Chu’s “Step Up 3D”—but at least he stuck around for round two. Tatum is now better-known for alternating between romantic dramas and action blockbusters, but his real comfort zone remains the dance film, where he’s liberated from the constraints of conventional acting and can more wholly adopt the role of a purely physical performer.
5.) "She’s The Man" (2006)
Before Channing Tatum had broken through into the mainstream public consciousness, teen star Amanda Bynes had yet to totally fade from it—a disappointing turn given that her last attempt at relevance before obscurity remains her best work by a mile. Bynes had long-since established herself as the thinking-man’s alternative to Disney-channel contemporaries like the waifish Hilary Duff, and, in keeping with this cultivated image, “She’s The Man” finds Bynes playing with gender identity and the traditional power dynamic of the teen-friendly romantic comedy. Tatum, as was his wont, plays the hunky jock for whom Bynes has eyes, a role which at the time seemed to define him.
1.) "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (2013)
Jon Chu and Channing Tatum are reunited at last—though not for the franchise they ought to be. Chu’s eye for clean compositions and good sense of spatial orientation are completely squandered in this loud, messy, and totally incoherent blockbuster, a disaster save for a solitary top-notch set-piece plopped into the middle of the film. Tatum fares even worse, left to try his hand at sub-Apatow comic riffing with The Rock before being summarily killed before the end of the first act. A sure sign, at least, that he knew he had better things to do.
2.) "The Dilemma" (2011)
Ron Howard directs a buddy comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James. Incredibly, this film came out in 2011, and as far as I know had not been sitting on some studio shelf since the summer of 2005. Tatum gets away mostly unscathed but proves, once again, that he needs to hire a more discerning agent.
3.) "Dear John" (2010)
If you were to chart the career of Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom, it would resemble one very depressing downward arc. How did the man who made “My Life as a Dog” descend, in just under twenty years, to slumming the depths of this Nicholas Sparks dreck? At least Tatum is here to build an image of himself as the teen heartthrob, which, though grossly saccharine, is at least a crucial component of his star identity.
4.) "The Vow" (2012)
Though I suppose you could always do worse. This particular romantic drama, though not quite the cheap airport fiction of “Dear John”, is in some ways more egregious, as it’s every bit as shallow as the blandest the genre has to offer without even the brass to embrace the trashiness fully. This is the middlebrow romantic’s idea of a prestige love film. Poor Tatum.
5.) "Coach Carter" (2005)
It’s the inspiring true story of an inspirational teacher who inspired students at an uninspired inner-city school, where everyone involved practically bows to applause between scenes of bleating and scenery-chewing theatrics. His career may be notoriously multifaceted, but this is one subgenre it would behoove Tatum to stay far away from.