The documentary format is easily the most divisive in all of cinema. The very nature of the format is to document the legitimate facts of any given story, but generally it seems that filmmakers often lose that concept. Honestly, the very fact that a true life story is being told and documented shows that the initial story was so interesting to one person (the director or producer) that they felt the need to bring this story to the eyes of a viewing audience. That kind of interest inevitably draws opinion into the matter and where there is opinion, there will inevitably be lies or distortions. Whether intentional or not! That is my main gripe with the format, as a viewer and a fan believe it or not. While Strip Club King: The Story of Joe Redner may not be a film of lies or distortions, you do ultimately get the feeling that the filmmakers do pick sides when it comes to the great dealings that Joe Redner has had in his long and varied career. Joe Redner is the quirky owner of the Mons Venus, a world renowned strip club based in Tampa Florida. Redner, who has been in the business for thirty years, has been running for local office on and off over the past decade. Going through six previous campaigns, Strip Club King catches him in the midst of his seventh and most successful campaign thus far. While making public appearances and shaking hands, Redner explains in this documentary how he made it in the adult club business and the various battles he has had to wage along the way in order to continue his career. Having been arrested one hundred and fifty times previously and having the majority of these convictions overturned, he has shaped himself into a knowledgeable student of the law and now looks to put that knowledge to better use for those who can’t stand up and defend their self on the political level.
The most interesting aspect of Strip Club King is redoubtably Joe Redner himself. A boiling pot ready to unleash at a moment’s notice, he is a man who draws attention and for great reason. He is a broad and grandiose character, who is never afraid to speak his mind. Like other so called ‘peddlers of filth’, such as Larry Flint or Hugh Hefner, he knows the law and how to use it to his satisfaction. A feature to his personality that will no doubt infuriate his opponents more than any possible insult he may manage to hurl their way. Redner’s personality, as demonstrated on his public access television program shown in the documentary, carries more vitriolic discourse than any Fox News commentator would dare to muster. However, when watching, you don’t get the idea that Redner is a statesman-like figure who is willing to be agreeable in order to change minds nor change his own position through debate. He is a man on the defensive in almost all fashions and would rather hurl insults into the face of his opponents and laugh at their retorts rather than discuss things in a gentlemanly fashion. Yet, while doing this the concept doesn’t dawn on the man that he is being as self-righteous and condescending as those who would try to close his business down. He is a man who flaunts his moral superiority, which is justified to him not by his own conscious or strict code of ethics, but by his victories in the court of law through the ambiguity of the legal system.
Despite what the film may attempt, unless you are one who agrees with everything that Redner says or believes in, you might find him a less than agreeable person. This is something that I actually liked a great deal about the film. Despite the filmmakers obviously being on Redner’s side – they presented a story that showed Redner simply for who he is. It is on those of us in the audience to judge the character and it is free enough to interpretation that we can make the judgment call our self. I was particularly impressed with how the filmmakers dealt with a local Christian protestor who has actually boycotted Redner’s club in the past. He is given time to actively speak about Redner without any kind of disparaging comments being waged at him. Something that I’m sure wouldn’t be possible if Redner himself were actually in the same room with the man while he gave this interview. Although the filmmakers do show that the man was outside of the Mons Venus hurling insults (such as ”Masturbator!”) at various people, I like that the filmmakers decided to interview this man and get his side of the story. The funny thing is that the man actually comes off as well tempered, if over-impassioned. The man was eventually attacked by Redner during one of his protests, which to me is more damaging than anything Redner could have said up until this point. For a man who has boycotted, protested and rallied against causes almost his entire life – to raise arms against any man over a belief or opinion is the ultimate act of hypocrisy.
Although I get the feeling that I took something from the film that the filmmakers might not have anticipated, the fact that it is so open to opinion shows that the filmmakers did a good job of simply documenting what was there. Joe Redner is an interesting character. A deceptively intelligent man who many feel is a patriot of free speech, Strip Club King: The Story of Joe Redner presents this man’s life for those who would dare to watch it and I have to say it is quite the story! An engaging watch from start to finish, no matter what your opinion may be on the man himself, there’s no getting past the fact that this is an addictive watch. You can read more about the project via it’s