Documentary investigates the life of the tough-as-nails lawyer, whose guiding principals made a profound impact on a young Donald Trump

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In order to understand Donald Trump, you need to understand Roy Cohn. 

Cohn, the subject of the fascinating documentary "Where's My Roy Cohn," was the New York lawyer who made his bones as Senator Joseph McCarthy's right hand man during the Army-McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. Cohn — who would go on to be Trump's personal lawyer in the 1980s — all but invented Trump's playbook, and director Matt Tyrnauer's film gives insight into the philosophies that govern the mind of our 45th President.     

Cohn was raised in the Bronx to be a tough son of a gun. The only child of a New York couple who's very union was a business arrangement — his father, Albert C. Cohn, cut a deal to become a judge if he'd wed Cohn's mother, Dora — Cohn quickly earned a reputation as a fighter who was always out for blood. 

He was also as crooked as the stripe on Charlie Brown's shirt. He cut corners, found loopholes and operated without any semblance of ethics, and was programmed to win at any cost. His guiding mantra was "never admit you're wrong and never apologize," which he imparted to a young Donald Trump, whom he met when Trump was 23. 

Tyrnauer looks deep into Cohn's twisted soul, and finds a man who was rotting from the inside out. He hid his homosexuality while publicly coming out against gays, and never admitted to having AIDS, which took his life in 1986 at age 59.

Tyrnauer tells Cohn's story through interviews with family members and colleagues, and makes it very clear that he's indirectly telling the story of Trump. This exposé of "a personality in disarray" is a two-for-one deal.

'Where's My Roy Cohn?"

GRADE: B+

Rated PG-13: for thematic content, some sexual material and violent images 

Running time: 97 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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