Koch has the mayor speak on several topics that hurt his political career and to hear his thoughts just months before his death are revealing. You may have to be from the New York metropolitan area to care, but being that I am I found it interesting and important.
The biggest failure of his time in office was not doing enough during the AIDS crisis, with the Gay Men's Health Crisis picking up the slack in handling services that the city should have provided. As far as Koch's sexuality(or lack of) goes, I agree in an absolute sense of privacy but since Koch was publicly and proudly Jewish, shouldn't his sexuality be on the same level?
Overall, "Koch" does a good job of chronicling his life and times, with many then current conversations with the man himself, as the Queensboro Bridge is renamed in his honor. At the same time, the filmmakers could have cast a wider net in interview subjects, not just talking to his allies. For example, it would have helped if they at least also talked to Jimmy Breslin and Al Sharpton. And I know it's just a curious footnote, but I would also have liked to have seen more on his acting appearances that went beyond his hosting Saturday Night Live.
Both in the archival footage and the recent interviews conducted for the film, Ed Koch comes across at once funny, divisive, charming, maddening, clever, and strident. He is a man entirely comfortable with who he is: reliant for his happiness on the adoration of the public but unfazed by those who hate him. Yet even without an answer to who Mayor Koch was on a deeper level, "Koch" is a detailed and entertaining look at a fascinating time in New York City's history. Moving at a brisk pace for its 100 minutes, the film starts by providing the context of his term as Mayor and what he confronted when he moved to Gracie Mansion -- rampant crime, looming municipal bankruptcy, dysfunctional municipal government and services, a total breakdown in civil order -- and then goes on to cover many of the Mayor's works and initiatives. What clearly comes through is Ed Koch's larger than life personality as demonstrated in his cheering on city residents who walked to work over the Brooklyn Bridge during the 1980 transit strike.
The film also a fair hearing to some of the Mayor's biggest perceived failures; namely those who charge that he was insensitive to the African-American community in the closing of Sydenham Hospital, police brutality towards minorities, the myriad municipal corruption scandals in his last term, and his perceived inadequate response to the AIDS crisis. Despite the Mayor's protestations, these issues clearly are black marks on his legacy. Yet the Mayor's achievements are also shown, and it's clear that Ed Koch left New York City much better than he found it.
Neil Barsky makes his feature documentary debut here with a film that, astonishingly, might possibly please everyone, regardless of their opinion of Koch. With great good humor, including that of Koch himself, who appears to have cooperated fully in the production, Barsky paints a warts-and-all portrait of Ed Koch that is historically compelling, journalistically rigorous, and bursting with the larger than life character that Ed Koch was. Perhaps the remarkable thing about "Koch" is how generous it manages to be without losing its cool, impartial perspective on just how controversial Ed Koch was in almost every aspect of his mayoralty. As a final coda to punctuate his life, Ed Koch died one day before the film's premiere in the city he remade in his own image. Ed Koch was always a political showman and knew how to make an exit.