By Gregory Crofton
Joe Exotic has a dyed blonde mullet and is a decent country singer. He’s married to two men and he likes guns. He likes to fire them into the lake that’s part of his exotic zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
Joe is the main character in “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” a seven-part docuseries that premiered Friday on Netflix. It is stunning and marvelous to watch, maybe the best documentary series I’ve seen mostly because it’s so entertaining.
Each episode of the series runs about forty-five minutes. Together the filmmakers masterfully weave a tale so completely American — it’s about guns, cults, wild animals, and money — that it needs to be seen by all of us so that we can learn more about the forces at work in our country.
Executive produced by Chris Smith (American Movie, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened) and directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, this doc is perfectly paced and full of classic interviews with “quirky Americans,” the type of footage Smith seems to specialize in.
Think “Boogie Nights” with tigers and sweatshops, or “Holy Hell” with guns and ammo, and you’ll start to get the idea. They cage tigers, sell tickets, breed tigers, commit arson, plan murder, witness suicide, chainsmoke pot and do meth. There are so many fascinating characters that follow intricate, shocking storylines.
One reason this documentary is so good is that the filmmakers, with what I’m sure was a huge amount of work and talent, managed to cram this hydra-headed story into a piece of art that’s compulsively watchable. Fortunately this gleaming object ended up on Netflix‘s shelf. Now millions of people will know Joe Exotic and see him as he should be seen, as a talented con artist with a drug problem.