What started as a documentary about questionable practices of wild animal breeders in America (more tigers living in captivity in the USA than in freedom worldwide) evolved into one of the most bizarre true-crime-stories with characters every movie director would erase from their scripts because they are simply just too unbelievable.
But truth is often stranger than fiction – and “Tiger King” is filled with some of the most grotesque and weird characters, while the scope of the true-crime-story widens and widens. Soon it is filled with drug lords smuggling cocaine inside snakes, the mysterious disappearance of an obscenely rich husband and everything is connected to Joe Exotic, a par excellence definition of extroversion: He’s a singer, tv show host and first and foremost the proud owner of one of the largest private zoos worldwide. Joe owns 227 wildcats and obviously this makes him the perfect enemy for animal rights activists like Carole Baskin who wants his zoo shut down better today than tomorrow. This is the center of Tiger King: The ongoing struggle of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, who swore to put an end to Joes Zoo.
Well, Joe is ready to pick up the fight and this Netflix show depicts how his obsession with wild animals combined with a larger-than-life ego and their hate for each other: Each one of them pretends to care about the animals but at the same time they earn tremendous amounts of money with them. Besides their hypocrisy the filmmakers reflect on their state of mind without sugarcoating their questionable morale – at one point Joe threatens with a massacre if the authorities would shut down his zoo.
And there is of course the crime that really happened (and which you should discover for yourself, so no spoilers here): Tiger King digs deeper and deeper into a strange subculture and unveils so many outrageous and hideous details that the criminal case has been reopened for further investigation after the screening. Also almost everybody depicted in this documentary is already suing the director – what’s usually the best sign that at least some truth has been revealed. Tiger King starts out as an hilarious and fascinating portrait of an eccentric man but gets darker by the minute until the smirking stops and the audience is just stunned by this wild trip inside a dog-eat-dog-world – or should we say tiger-eats-tiger-world?