Roy Cohn has a strange legacy. Despite the many achievements, from his perspective, of his long and controversial career, he will perhaps be best remembered for the supporting role Tony Kushner created for him in Angels in America.
That legacy is not brought up during Where's My Roy Cohn? Matt Tyrnaeur's documentary instead explores Cohn's 59-year existence, from a miserable upbringing to his role in the Rosenberg trial and McCarthy hearings, through to his time spent mentoring then-property developer Donald Trump.
The latter element, a large part of the second half, feels included as a way of justifying the film's existence. There are suggestions during the opening sequence that the film will explore how Cohn's influence has contributed to our modern political climate, but no such links are actually drawn.
Instead, this is largely a biopic presenting Cohn's story in as scathing detail as possible. Tyrnaeur clearly has no sympathy for his subject, an antagonism that he fully justifies. Cohn's internalised homophobia, desire to succeed and uncompromising attack style are laid bare, with unbelievable footage from interviews and the McCarthy trials that shows the politics of Trump and Farage are nothing new.
It's a film that succeeds thanks to its subject rather than its cinematic prowess. Visually, it is largely unimpressive, talking heads spliced up with copious stock footage and the same photos and archive footage shown on repeat.
The detailing of Cohn's sordid life is entertaining as it is shocking, and makes for an informative explainer on one man's life. Yet Tyrnauer never manages to find a purpose behind recounting Cohn's life story. He crafts a tight portrait of a remarkably unpleasant man but offers no insights or connections between then and now.
The Trump link and the fact Cohn hid his sexuality even while dying of Aids are two matters ripe for deeper exploration, but instead Where's My Roy Cohn? concludes as a deservedly harsh examination of an infamous figure but its existence is nothing more than a checklist of Cohn's greatest hits.
Where's My Roy Cohn?
Director: Matt Tyraneur
Runtime: 95 minutes
Verdict: Cohn takedown entertains but lacks in justifying its existence