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In this film's opening scene, former New York City mayor Edward Koch looks out an airplane window while flying over the metropolis he once governed. “This belongs to me,” he says. “It’s extraordinary. Thank you, God.” There’s bombast to that statement, but first-time director Neil Barsky doesn’t dwell on it. He’s content to let the famously blunt and often inflammatory man speak for himself, which Koch does happily and humorously. When Koch came into power in 1978, New York was a beleaguered city on the brink of bankruptcy. When he was voted out, in 1989, crime and poverty persisted, but the city had begun its renaissance. With a mix of talking-head interviews and archival footage, the documentary charts the major touchstones of Koch’s career: the tight 1977 election, the colossal housing projects he oversaw, a major transit strike in 1980 (in a characteristic moment, Koch good-naturedly joins the pedestrian masses on the Brooklyn Bridge and stares down striking workers). Barsky, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, also touches on the lowlights, including Koch’s failure to respond to the AIDS crisis. In the end, Koch winds up serving as a eulogy—Koch died the week the film was released in New York, and Barsky even includes footage of him contemplating how his obituary will read. In one scene, Koch discusses why he doesn’t want one of the Jewish cemeteries opened up for him, noting that such graveyards get no foot traffic. “I want to be in a bustling cemetery,” he crows. With a self-congratulatory yet somewhat wistful laugh, he goes on: “My plot will be on the subway.”

Special Note

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  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Monday, February 25, 2013
  • Critic's Score: B
  • Watch the trailer

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  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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