There aren’t many films with titles that guilty white people might worry that they’re not even allowed to say, but Chocolate City does. The film is an African-American answer to Magic Mike – a comparison the film itself doesn’t shy away from – all about a young man who becomes a male stripper. In fact the director has suggested the movie was a response to Magic Mike, after they noted that the Channing Tatum movie had few people of colour.
Michael is doing his best to get through college, while working and helping out his mom (Vivica A. Fox), but when the electricity company threatens to shut off their supply, he needs cash fast. After being given a ‘job interview’, Michael is shocked to see he’s being offered the chance to do exotic dancing.
After initial shyness Michael – under the name Sexy Chocolate – discovers he’s a natural. The audience adore him and he can make an awful lot of money stand on the stage and getting his grind on. As his star rises and he begins to displace the established dancers, they start to plot against him. Michael is also keeping his new job a secret from his girlfriend and mother, although that can’t last forever.
Chocolate City certainly doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you asked people for their first thoughts about what the plot of a movie about male strippers might be, that’s exactly the story we get here, with each expected plot point ticked and very little that will cause even the mildest amount of shock or surprise. However, it does the job in amiable fashion and let’s not kid ourselves, few people are buying a movie about male strippers in the hope that it’ll be an avant garde piece that breaks down narrative forms and takes cinema to places it’s never been before.
The plot is relatively perfunctory, but it keeps things moving along in entertaining and amusing enough fashion, even if does have a bit of a ‘have your cake and eat it’ morality, where it tries to be both liberal and prurient about men stripping at the same time.
But let’s face it, a film like this lives and dies on the promise of men getting sexy on the stripper stage, and on that Chocolate City delivers. It is a little coyer than Magic Mike and sometimes seems a little shy about men’s packages, but it certainly has plenty of muscled torsos, good looking guys and sexual grinding. It also helps that lead actor Robert Ri’chard is sex on legs, while model Tyson Beckford is looking as good as you’d hope, and there are also plenty of other hot guys showing that an African American crew can certainly give Magic Mike and his crew a run for their money.
It also makes me think that if Chocolate City fills in the gap left by the lack of people of color in Magic Mike, now we need the gay version, as there weren’t exactly a lot of LGBT characters in either movie. After all, while both Magic Mike and Chocolate City concentrate on women throwing cash at sexy gents, gay men are the backbone of the male stripping industry, keeping hot guys in work at club nights, in go-go cages and sometimes just because it’s a Tuesday and they’re feeling horny. In fact, perhaps I should go and do some research for that movie right now.
Overall Verdict: I suppose I should be poncey and pretend there are reasons to watch this is due to the fairly entertaining (if clichéd) story and how it mixes this into an African American milieu, but who would I be kidding? Nope, if you’re gonna watch it, the reason is because it’s kinda fun, and there are lots of hot guy with their shirts off who are being sexy.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac