Power can be achieved one of two ways. It can be achieved through hard work and honesty or it can be achieved by intimidation and tons of publicity. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made a name for himself through the latter technique and with a career spanning over half a century, he is a force to be reckoned with, mostly because he knows how to work a camera and engage his audience. The new documentary The Joe Show focuses on the camera-happy sheriff and it is an honest, sometimes cringe-worthy look at a man who either doesn’t seem to know the impact he’s causing or knows all too well. The results are documentary filmmaking at its best and shine even more light on a man who has all the lights on him already.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s law enforcement career began in the 1950s in the Army when he served as a military police officer. Since then, he has gradually risen up the ranks in civilian law enforcement up to his election as Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona in 1992. Since then, he has held that position proudly and uses his position to get on the news as much as possible. He has also received bad press, earning a reputation of being controversial with accusations of abuse of power, misuse of funds, racial profiling, issues relating to sex crimes and immigration laws, and the list goes on. He was even instrumental in the investigation of Barack Obama’s birth certificate when Obama ran for President in 2008. Yet, with so many controversies surrounding him, Arpaio manages to stay out of prison and in the “positive” spotlight, for the world to see and behold.
The Joe Show is a fantastic documentary because it shows both sides of the Joe Arpaio coin. There is the saintly public image that many choose to accept and there is the image of a scoundrel, someone who literally gets away with murder and smiles smugly for the cameras. In the film, Arpaio even goes so far as to saying that he almost ran for President of the United States, a frightening thought given the man’s political clout.
Filmmaker Randy Murray (The Impostor, Edge of War) has done a beautiful job with The Joe Show. It almost feels like an Oliver Stone film because Arpaio is such a character and one can even picture Tommy Lee Jones in the role. There is archival footage spread out over the past few decades and we really get to see Arpaio in numerous press situations. There are plenty of angles in which we get to see Arpaio and most aren’t very flattering. Arpaio’s media director (and partner in crime) Lisa Allen is partly to blame for Arpaio’s sinister dealings because she’s the one wrangling the press and feeding them spun tales that stray from the truth. She is basically as shady as Arpaio and we get to see her cold-heartedness in action as well. There are also interviews with notable celebrities who weigh in on Arpaio and their testimonials are quite interesting. They include Larry King, Hugh Downs, Dan Ariely, Noam Chomsky, Steven Seagal, and Ted Nugent.
If you are unfamiliar with Arpaio, then obviously, this documentary is for you. It is illuminating and entertaining and a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with a truly morally bankrupt individual. Filmmaker Randy Murray provides us with a vivid portrait of someone who really doesn’t deserve such a portrait. Documentary filmmaking is designed to examine the truth and The Joe Show does just that… and then some.