Total Recall

Total Recall: Channing Tatum's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Magic Mike star.

by | June 28, 2012 | Comments

Channing Tatum

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.”


9. Fighting

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.”


8. She’s the Man

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.”


7. Battle in Seattle

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.”


6. Stop-Loss

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.”



5. Coach Carter

Tatum made his big-screen debut in this inspirational sports drama, based on the real-life story of a basketball coach (played here by Samuel L. Jackson) who demands academic standards from his team — and isn’t above benching them when they fail to obey the rules. Pretty formulaic stuff, even if it did really happen, but as far as most critics were concerned, even if Coach Carter wasn’t particularly original, it was still effective, thanks in part to a strong central performance from Jackson. The end result, as Stephanie Zacharek argued for Salon, is “One of those highly effective conventional pictures that remind us that conventionality isn’t always a bad thing.”


4. Public Enemies

Strictly speaking, it would be hard to argue that the oft-revisited legend of John Dillinger deserved another film adaptation — but with Michael Mann behind the cameras and a cast that included Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, and a blessedly makeup-free Johnny Depp, Public Enemies made a slick, explosion-filled argument for one more round. Tatum, who played Pretty Boy Floyd, made the most of another well-directed, solidly cast entry in his resume, and although Enemies didn’t abscond with as much box office loot as its producers probably expected, it earned the admiration of critics like Roger Ebert, who observed, “Here is a film that shrugs off the way we depend on myth to sentimentalize our outlaws.”


3. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Nine times out of 10, an actor probably doesn’t want to hear “You remind me of a young Eric Roberts” from a casting director. But this was not the case with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, starring Tatum as — you guessed it — a young Eric Roberts, alongside Shia LaBeouf (who played a young Robert Downey Jr.) and Melonie Diaz (young Rosario Dawson). A dramatic recreation of life in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, NY during the 1980s, Saints boasted a surfeit of acting talent but earned only a limited release despite raves from critics like Stuart McGurk of thelondonpaper, who cooed, “The real star is Channing Tatum as the alpha-chimp leader of Dito’s pack. The camera doesn’t just love him, it wants to marry him, settle down, and have his babies.”


2. Haywire

WWE, take note: By surrounding Women’s MMA star Gina Carano with a rock-solid supporting cast and handing her a script that played solidly to her strengths, director Steven Soderbergh offered a case study in how to turn an athlete into an action star. Haywire also gave Tatum — playing a covert op working alongside Carano — a chance to hone his dramatic chops in some pretty good company, including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas. But no matter whose names were in the credits, it was Carano’s show; as Betsy Sharkey wrote for the Los Angeles Times, “Watching Carano kick, spin, flip, choke, crack and crush the fiercest of foes — mostly men about twice her size — is thoroughly entertaining, highly amusing and frankly somewhat awe-inspiring.”


1. 21 Jump Street

If you’d told us a couple of years ago that a movie based on 21 Jump Street would end up at the top of anyone’s Total Recall — let alone with 85 percent on the Tomatometer — we would have smiled politely and gone off to talk to someone else at the party. But lo and behold, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller managed to turn a patchwork screenplay derived from a cheesy TV show into a genuinely funny action-comedy hit, and Tatum raised some eyebrows with one of his first genuinely comic performances — just ask Ethan Alter from Television Without Pity, who had to admit, “Tatum is absolutely hilarious in the movie — and not in the unintentional way his stiff performances in romantic dramas like The Vow turn out to be.”

In case you were wondering, here are Tatum’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. 21 Jump Street — 87%

2. Step Up — 85%

3. Coach Carter — 85%

4. Step Up 2 the Streets — 81%

5. She’s the Man — 80%

6. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints — 67%

7. Dear John — 66%

8. Battle in Seattle — 66%

9. Public Enemies — 65%

10. The Vow — 63%

Take a look through Tatum’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Magic Mike.