“WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?”: Trump’s tutor

Roy Cohn
“WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?”  My rating: B | 97 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Published November 2, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

Disbarred attorney and right wing political fixer Roy Cohn was such a creepy  character (those sociopathic hooded eyes) that liberals may be forgiven for wanting to forget all about him.

They do so at their own risk.

Matt Tyrnaer’s “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” is, in most regards, a conventional bio doc.

It follows Cohn’s life and career from boyhood (his parents assuaged their own unhappiness by treating him as a little prince) and his first real brush with corruption (at age 15 he used a bribe to get a teacher out of a traffic ticket) to his death from AIDS at age 59 in 1987.

The film covers all the high (or low) points you’d expect:

  • Prosecuting the Rosenbergs and personally lobbying the judge to ensure a death sentence.
  • Serving as counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in his infamous Red Scare campaigns.
  • Playing a major role in Army-McCarthy hearings (Coen tried to blackmail the U.S. Army to gain preferential treatment for PFC David Shine, a friend and colleague with whom he was infatuated).
  • His Machiavellian law practice, frequently on behalf of the corrupt and  powerful, including organized crime bosses like John Gotti. (Cohn’s motto:  “I don’t care what the law is. I want to know who the judge is.”)

But it is in the film’s final third that things get monstrously topical.  For here Tyrnaer’s examines Cohn’s mentoring of young Donald Trump, for whom Cohn cut numerous illegal deals that would pave the way to the erecting of Trump Tower.  Donald Trump who may not have been much of a scholar but apparently he remembered everything he heard and saw in Cohn’s presence and has been exploiting it ever since.

Roy Cohn (right) and fellow sleaze ball

See if any of this reminds you of our Prez:

Cohn’s colleagues describe him as a fighter, a caged animal whose door should never be opened, as a master manipulator of the press and the courts. Throughout his career he practiced the politics of paranoia, exploiting the fears of those he hoped to influence.

No matter how deep in the muck, Coen claimed victory.  He exuded such unshakeable confidence that for most of his career he was regarded as the “Teflon attorney.”  Nothing hurled at him stuck. (He once said his goal was to die owing the IRS as much as possible.)

Oh, yeah, he lied. Shamelessly and effectively.

Granted, Coen was much smarter than Donald Trump, who from all appearances acts from the gut rather than the head. As bad as things are, imagine how much worse if The Donald had ever matured intellectually.

“Where’s My Roy Cohn?” draws on both its subject’s enemies and friends for commentary (Cohn protege Roger Stone is among the talking heads). Curiously, the “friends” (his law partners, a gay lover) don’t have much nice to say about the guy.

One defines Cohn as “the definition of a self-hating Jew.”  Though gay, Cohn made a show of dating heavy-hitting women (he was allegedly “engaged” to Barbara Walters) and fiercely denied being a homosexual.  Even when he was dying of AIDS he claimed to have liver cancer.

With Coen, one acquaintance recalls, you knew you were “in the presence of evil.”

Now that evil has metastasized and is taking over our institutions.

From the grave, Roy Cohn is no doubt grinning wickedly.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene



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Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.