Rudolph Giuliani is a hero to some, but if you’re not wild about him — or, better yet, if you think he’s about as close as American urban politics has come to coughing up the Antichrist — then Giuliani Time is the movie for you. Giuliani’s leadership in the wake of 9/11 solidified his status as a national figure, but Kevin Keating’s outraged video-clip documentary presents the countermyth: the mayor as bully, as petty fascist crackdown artist. Keating lingers over tales of police brutality, of impoverished men and women tossed off welfare and given menial ”slave” jobs. He goes to torturous lengths to prove that Giuliani’s embrace of the ”broken windows” school of law enforcement — i.e., the ruthless policing of quality-of-life violations to create a more upright culture, one less conducive to major crime — didn’t actually work.
I’m not sure that many New Yorkers would agree with him. As mayor, Rudy Giuliani did numerous indefensible things, yet Keating, in his agitprop attack, engages in his own form of bullying, creating a politically correct harangue. By portraying Giuliani as a dictator who jammed his policies down New York City’s throat, Keating blinds himself to the larger picture, which is that Giuliani presided over a tectonic cultural shift: the embrace, by many liberals as well as conservatives, of a homogenized New York over the unruly sin city of old. The mayor’s crusade against strip clubs, for instance, was arguably a brazen First Amendment violation, but it succeeded in no small part because of the righteous assent of local residents. The trouble with Giuliani Time is that Keating, as a filmmaker, wants to give power to the people but in his every perception he takes it away from them.