There’s something inherently distressing and depressing – and more than a little scary – about the documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? The title is taken from a 2018 quote attributed to none other than Donald Trump, lamenting the fact that his former lawyer/fixer Roy Cohn wasn’t still around to employ all the tactics that Cohn was known for: treachery; hypocrisy; media manipulation; offensiveness; ruthlessness; a sense of entitlement. Pick your poison. Cohn was a master, and Trump misses him dearly. Rudy Giuliani may be trying his best to channel Cohn, but as the documentary reveals, Cohn is a tough act to follow.

While the documentary gets its name from a Presidential invocation, it’s not about Cohn’s relationship with Trump over the years, though it does touch briefly on their dealings. Rather, it’s a documentary that explores Cohn’s rich but sorrowful upbringing and its influence on his legendary, inflammatory career. He played a prominent role in the 1951 espionage trial of convicted (and executed) Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; he was chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of McCarthy’s overzealous hunt for suspected communists; he represented scores of high-profile clients including Donald Trump, various Mafia figures, and the owners of Studio 54; he rubbed elbows with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan; and, he was implicated in all sorts of misdeeds and eventually disbarred.

The documentary (from Matt Tyrnauer, Valentino: The Last Emperor; Studio 54, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood; Citizen Jane: Battle for the City) also delves into the hypocrisy of Cohn’s personal life, down to the very end. Cohn vehemently denied being gay, and having AIDS. He died in 1986, of AIDS, at the age of 59.

Cohn’s strategy was basically attack, never apologize, and never admit you’re wrong. Sound familiar?

The timing couldn’t be better – or worse – for this particular documentary about one of Trump’s heroes. Cohn may be gone, but his playbook seems to have survived. Sad.

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