Infamous lawyer and power broker Roy Cohn was a complicated individual, but the new documentary chronicling his life puts so much focus on capturing each facet of his tale that the finished product is as convoluted as its lengthy title. Bully. Coward. Victim: The Story of Roy Cohn is simply too much, all the time.

When people say they hate lawyers, it’s Roy Cohn they’re picturing in their heads. He was the sum total of despicable traits masquerading as a skill set. Marketing materials and early reviews of the doc focus primarily on Cohn’s late period influence on President Donald Trump and the mentor/mentee relationship the two men shared in the early ‘80s before Cohn died from AIDS complications and Trump conveniently forgot his most trusted advisor existed. But the observations and connections made there are fleeting at best.

The film feels listless trying to examine every conflicting element of Cohn’s mythology. He was, after all, a closeted gay Jewish man who built his career and reputation helping Senator McCarthy prosecute Jews and homosexuals they considered traitors to the state. But in exploring his closeted lifestyle and the many ways it crossed over with the subculture he so chastised in his daily life, the film luxuriates a little too much in highlighting the kind of right- wing hypocrisy our society has been faced with for decades. (A cameo from John Waters as a talking head provides some much needed levity, though.)

As the documentary explores Cohn’s place in popular culture, interviews with Tony Kushner and clips from “Angels in America” (with Nathan Lane as Cohn) offer a dramatic counterpoint to some of the archival footage used of the man himself, somehow presenting a fuller idea of this figure by juxtaposing the truth and the fiction so blatantly. But perhaps the most compelling elements of the film come from the more personal elements in the narrative. Director Ivy Meeropol opens the film with home movie footage of her own father talking about Cohn being personally responsible for the state sanctioned execution of her grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were tried and convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage.

Meeropol’s father Michael spent a great deal of his career publicly proving the malpractice Cohn employed to get this conviction, trying to right this historic injustice. In that regard, the documentary at times feels like him passing the baton to his daughter, with her using her filmmaking prowess to put Cohn on trial posthumously. In the moments where this through line shines, the documentary feels righteous and necessary. But for far too much of the runtime, it feels standard and laborious, like a laundry list of one man’s sins and flaws.

It’s easy to watch the film and hate Cohn even more than history books might have led you to, but there’s little here to paint him in anything resembling a complex or sympathetic light. Truly, the title could have just stopped at “coward.”

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