There are two types of documentaries. One that is strictly informational and displays no opinion or bias and one that is persuasive, where the filmmakers want viewers to think a certain way about something or someone rather than presenting facts.
“Where’s My Roy Cohn” is a mixture of the two. It presents a narrative of Roy Cohn as America’s most notorious lawyer while presenting information that feels like a history lesson of America between the early ‘50s and mid ‘80s. This tactic is brilliant.
Director Matt Tyrnauer displays Cohn’s life as if it was both a history special and a soap opera without leaning to one type. Tyrnauer does this by showing newspaper clippings and TV reports of Cohn’s misdeeds along with interviews of people who either knew or worked with Cohn during his career. People interviewed include political advisor Roger Stone, writer Anne Roiphe and journalist Ken Auletta.
Cohn’s illegal activities included dressing up as a nurse and having a dying semi-comatose lawyer sign away his estate to him and failing to pay his client a $100,000 loan then lying about it in court. To say Cohn’s actions were disgusting would be an understatement.
Accompanying the film is a score that is tailor-made to fit the film’s grim tone. It is engaging without being distracting. The score is especially dynamic when placed with interviews of Cohn, highlighting the corrupt nature of a man who once worked with Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare.
The biggest accomplishment of “Where’s My Roy Cohn” is the honesty with which it presents Cohn’s life. Nothing was sugar-coated about his life and any information Tyrnauer had on Cohn was presented with sincerity.
During his career, Cohn represented everyone from mob boss John Gotti to current U.S. President Donald Trump. His tactics were ruthless and unforgiving, yet he was able to win so many cases over the course of his career.
Another highlight of the film is the thoroughness of the research on Cohn, even delving into his family history. The film reveals that Cohn’s mother, Dora Marcus, only married Cohn’s father, Albert C. Cohn, because Marcus’ family had arranged the marriage with Cohn’s father.
There is a chilling effect once credits roll. The vile nature of Cohn and his antics will stick with you and even have you questioning everything you have done wrong in your life.
“Where’s My Roy Cohn” may be the best documentary of 2019. It may not receive the same attention as a documentary like “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” got when it first came out, but its quality compares to films of that nature.
At 1 hour and 37 minutes in length, the film is engaging all the way through and will surely have you at the edge of your seat by the time it is over.
Final Score: 4.75/5
Thumbnail photo courtesy of AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com