Never settle, never surrender. Attack, attack and counter-attack. And no matter how evil or slimey your situation may be, always claim victory and never admit defeat.

These were cherished, deeply-held principles that the late Roy Cohn, one of the most satanic figures of the 20th Century, adhered to during his early ’50s-to-mid ’80s heyday, and they were passed along with interest and relish to the young Donald J. Trump in the ’70s and early ’80s. God help us but Cohn’s lessons of avarice still live in Trump today, right now…fundamental poisons, the devil’s handbook, operational tricks of the trade.

Ali Abassi‘s The Apprentice is the well-told story of Cohn and Trump’s master-mentor relationship, and God, it’s so much fun…so alive and entertaining and popping with the wicked pleasures of an evil life or attitude.

The Apprentice, which I saw late yesterday afternoon. saved me from my post-Horizon depression…a terrible black-dog, pit-of-my-stomach feeling that had taken me down, down, down. And then I saw Abassi’s fast, fleet and grainy tabloid dramedy and I was suddenly pulled out of the pit. I was chuckling and even laughing out loud, which I rarely do, and just fucking tickled to death. Thank you, God.

All hail Jeremy Strong‘s magnificent supporting performance as Cohn — he should definitely win the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Actor prize, the size of the role be damned — as well as Sebastian Stan‘s Trump, a note-perfect capturing of this amiable, malevolent psychopath, who apparently exuded a certain naivete and behaved in a semi-understandable fashion and may have been half-human when he was working in a senior capacity for his father’s real-estate company in the ’70s. But that didn’t last.

Roy Cohn molded young Trump into the fiend he remains today…Cohn was the father, godfather and inspirational older brother Trump had never known while growing up. Fred Trump, Donald’s real-estate-tycoon dad, goaded him to succeed or at the very least bullshit his way through a tough racket but imparted a flinty, ruthless mentality in the process. Thanks, dad…fuck off.

Abassi’s direction is brash and brilliant, and Gabriel Sherman‘s screenplay (which was apparently cowritten by Jennifer Stahl, according to Wikipedia) is a model of no-bullshit economy — it gets right to the nub of things and never loses focus during the film’s 120-minute running time.

We’ve all been suffering through the plague of two-hour-plus films — the art of crafting an effective 100-to-110-minute narrative is apparently dead. But I would have been happy if The Apprentice had been Lawrence of Arabia. Okay, not that long but a 140- or 150-minute version would have felt like a neck massage, like a quaalude high. Keep it coming, feels so good.

The Apprentice has no distributor as we speak but please, please get this film into theatres as quickly as possible, and don’t wait for the fall — open it in July or certainly no later than August. Because it’s a huge pleasure pill that needs to be seen by as wide of an audience as possible. Very few adult films are this much fun. And if it gets seen quickly and widely enough, it might just save this country from four more years of hell. Maybe. Possibly.

There’s a bizarre passage in Tatiana Siegel‘s 5.20 Variety story about the already-infamous rape scene…the one that the late Ivana Trump shared and then denied in 2015 (obviously under pressure from Donald)…the one in which Donald throws Ivana (played by Maria Bakalova) to the ground during an argument and rapes her like a Cossack. As he’s ravaging her from behind, Trump hisses into Ivana’s ear, “Is that your G-spot…did I find it?”

Remember that Peter Coyote line from Jagged Edge when he describes Jeff Bridges‘ Jack Forrester character as “an ice man”? Well, Forrester had nothing on Trump, particularly when the latter began treating the heavily-closeted Cohn like shit when he began to succumb to AIDS symptoms.

Siegel quotes an “insider” saying that “audiences may find The Apprentice to be an oddly humanizing portrait” of Trump. Excuse me? Young Trump seems like a semi-tolerable fellow at first, but he gradually morphs into a toxic fuckhead…a killer. The truth is that Abassi’s film is an oddly humanizing portrait of Cohn as it invites the audience to share Cohn’s sense of betrayal…you actually feel sorry for this icon of evil when Trump gives him the cold shoulder.

Cohn to Trump at film’s halfway point: “You’ve got a fat ass. You should do something about that.” Strong is wonderful!

And by the way, Siegel reported yesterday that Dan Snyder, a billionaire Trump supporter who’s an investor in The Apprentice, is enraged at the damning portrait of Trump.

Variety excerpt: “Sources say Snyder, a friend of Trump’s who donated $1.1 million to his inaugural committee and Trump Victory in 2016 and $100,000 to his 2020 presidential campaign, put money into the film via Kinematics because he was under the impression that it was a flattering portrayal of the 45th president. Snyder finally saw a cut of the film in February and was said to be furious.” Hard to believe anyone could be that clueless, but there it is.

Here’s a nice taste of yesterday’s Apprentice screening.

I’ll be hitting the Apprentice press conference at 11 am, and I may even catch Abassi’s film a second time this evening, just for fun. I also plan to catch Sean Baker‘s Anora at 3 pm today.