Rated PG-13. Opens Friday at the Clay Theatre.
Matt Tyrnauer’s last two documentaries Studio 54 and Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood weren’t quite as revelatory as their own hype suggested, and were best when they focused on individuals rather than broader history. This is very much the case with Tyrnauer’s new, occasionally jaw-dropping Where’s My Roy Cohn?, an outlier in Tyrnauer’s oeuvre in that it’s about a bad man who did bad things. Roy Cohn was a lawyer and political power broker who was Joseph McCarthy’s right-hand man, a self-hating Jew who ensured the Rosenbergs were executed, and a closeted queer who relentlessly persecuted other queers despite how much sex he had with men. He also couldn’t have been more proud of the construction magnate who became his protégé in the 1970s. Cohn taught his padawan to never apologize, to never admit fault, and to always be on the attack — though Cohn died from AIDS in 1986, 30 years before said protégé was elected president. As a result, Where’s My Roy Cohn? joins the How We Got Into This Hellscape subgenre, along with other documentaries including but not limited to Get Me Roger Stone and Divide and Conquer: The Roger Ailes Story. But knowing this history probably won’t keep it from repeating, for there will always be another Roy Cohn somewhere.