Movie Review

Film Review: GET ME ROGER STONE (2017): Shedding Light On The Prince Of Darkness

Roger Stone Get Me Roger Stone

Get Me Roger Stone Review

Get Me Roger Stone (2017) Film Review, a movie directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMaurio, and Morgan Pehme, and starring Roger Stone, Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, Jeffrey Toobin, Tucker Carlson, Jane Mayer, Wayne Barrett, Harry Siegel, Alex Jones, Matt Labash, Nydia Stone, Charlie Black, Michael Caputo, and Hillary Clinton.

One of the numerous side effects of this past election was the unexpected thrusting of the most unlikely individuals to the forefront of political discussion and the national consciousness. In no case was this more pronounced than the rise of Donald Trump to presidential candidacy and subsequently the presidency itself, with the real estate tycoon and former Apprentice host reinventing himself as a bellicose, authoritarian-minded nationalist before defeating the clear favorites to win in both the primary and general elections.

Trump’s unconventional style of politicking, such as his willingness to entertain conspiracy theories, has emboldened any number of fringe figures, with racists, anti-Semites, and other right-wing extremists proudly claiming the president as one of their own or at the very least insinuating that he is a fellow traveler whose goals happen to run parallel with theirs. Meanwhile, detractors of his on the left, unable to come to terms with the Democratic Party’s catastrophic defeat this past November, have descended into infighting and hysteria, with many floating conspiracy theories of their own about Trump being a modern-day Manchurian candidate beholden to Russia due to the Kremlin’s obvious preference for him and its alleged interference in the election. While an entire documentary series’ could be made about all of these characters (and they really are characters), the directorial team of Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMaurio, and Morgan Pehme chose to focus on just one for Get Me Roger Stone.

Opening up on footage of Trump addressing his supporters over a big-screen TV overhead at a campaign rally, the camera pulls away until a blurred silhouette of a man comes into frame and then focus. That man is Roger Stone, and although you would never guess it by the reserved applause he offers as the Republican nominee inveighs against the elites who stood between him and the White House and the audience erupts into cheers of excitement, he was one of the people – if not the person – most responsible for Trump’s candidacy. Observing the event from the safety of a dark booth that isolates him from the masses occupying the venue, Stone appears detached from the proceedings as well as the people who would go on to propel the populist conservative they came out to see to victory.

One can’t help but think of that moment in Dr. Strangelove when the titular mad scientist sits silently in the shadows of the War Room as George C. Scott leads the rest of the room’s staff in grateful prayer after it seems that World War III has been narrowly averted. But when Trump concludes his speech and Stone rises with his arms stretched out and his hands giving the unmistakably Nixonian double victory salute, one might be reminded of that film’s penultimate scene, wherein Strangelove suddenly steps out of his wheelchair and, realizing what he has just done, announces “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!” Possible implications of fascism aside, it sounds like an outrageous comparison to make but as the documentary shows, Roger Stone is far more outrageous than any character Peter Sellers or Stanley Kubrick ever came up with.

Despite his reputation as a “Prince of Darkness” (a moniker that Stone takes, like most criticisms of himself, in stride), Stone is shown to be one of the most colorful players in the political arena today. Pushing 65, the white-haired GOP consultant looks like a cartoony version of Mike Pence, minus the vice president’s puritanical tendencies. Far from being a prude, he wears loud suits, peppers his speech with F-bombs and other profanities, and is frequently shown with cigars and alcoholic beverages at hand.

Not content with simply acting unlike your typical Republican, Stone goes out of his way to disavow the social conservativism so associated with his party and professes to be both “a libertarian and a libertine”, citing his long-standing support for gay marriage, abortion rights, and drug legalization. Indeed, he is shown marching alongside representatives from the Log Cabin Republicans at a gay pride rally, even as members of the crowd boo them as they are announced and walk by. Undeterred by the hostile reception, Stone flips the bird at those booing him and his compatriots and keeps marching on.

How Stone, who has been active in Republican politics since Barry Goldwater’s unsuccessful 1964 run for the presidency, reconciles his self-identified “libertarian streak” with the patently nonlibertarian preferences of his fellow GOPers’ goes unanswered, with him making not so much as an off-hand remark about how presidents he supported like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan pursued policies directly antithetical to the few positions he clearly stakes out in the film. This raises an interesting point about Stone and his agenda: although he is more than happy to talk about his enemies, his triumphs, and himself, he speaks very little, if at all, about the end game, about the vision that drives him to play as dirty as he does. What little analysis of his ideology (if you can call it that) is offered comes from other people interviewed for the documentary, most of whom have little positive to say about the right-wing rabble-rouser.

Those who should be most sympathetic to him like his former consulting partner Paul Manafort and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson come across as lukewarm in their scenes, with Manafort sticking mainly to recounting his past work with Stone in a matter of fact fashion while Carlson appears guarded in his comments and keen to dispel some of Stone’s more self-aggrandizing claims. The only person who unequivocally praises him is Donald Trump, who the film argues Stone has been grooming for the presidency for decades before a sketchy series of events led to him being, depending on who you ask, fired from or leaving the Donald’s 2016 campaign.

His critics, on the other hand, hold little back in their assessments of the Prince of Darkness. The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer views Stone’s vague conservativism as nothing more than a front for Republicans to roll back government regulations and allow corporations to do as they please, and the late Wayne Barrett oozes nothing less than contempt for Stone even as he refrains from saying anything truly denigrating about him. Archival footage shows, among other things, Young Turks host Cenk Uygur calling him a “sick man” to his face and Ted Cruz beating around the bush to point out that the word “ratf*cker” was coined to describe Stone while denying allegations of marital infidelity said to have originated from him. The only one who pushes back against these attacks is Stone himself, who typically laughs before defending or explaining his behavior. This may seem unfair to Stone, but being larger than life as he is, he is more than capable of holding his own against his critics.

Whether you find yourself rooting for the iconoclastic anti-establishmentarian or horrified that such an absurd and offensive personality could come as close to the levers of power as he has is beside the point of Get Me Roger Stone. What matters is that we get a look at what drives and motivates one of the people who has shaped American politics, for better or worse, into what it is today. That driving force is not maximizing liberty, defending the free market, or some other intellectual objective, but seizing power and vanquishing one’s foes, as Stone makes clear at the end of the film. Shrugging off the criticisms made about him and his character, the veteran dirty trickster channels Tricky Dick once again to defiantly declare “I revel in your hatred.” Stone may have made a fortune peddling lies and innuendo to advance his and his clients’ interests, but you can’t help but appreciate this final, insightful moment of candor.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Reggie Peralta

An aspiring writer, longtime film junkie, and former disc jockey (where I graduated with a BA in Political Science), I've made the jump from penning book reviews and current events editorials for to writing movie and TV news and reviews.

When I'm not working towards my certificate in Radio and Television/Video Production at Fullerton College, I enjoy reading (horror, science fiction, and historical/political nonfiction are particular favorites), participating in my school's TV and theatre clubs, attending movie screenings, plays, concerts, and other events, and trying to come up with pithy things to say on social media. Believe it or not, there are occasions where I find time to write for my own leisure.

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