"The story of Marion Barry is mesmerizing," said Sam Allis in The Boston Globe, and the "rise and fall" of the former Washington, D.C., mayor is captured well in The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, a documentary that premieres on HBO Monday night. Most people think of Barry as "a fallen man, an embarrassment" to D.C., "out of control from booze, drugs, and women." But director/producers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer "correct the picture and remind us how good Barry was before he went bad." (watch the trailer for The Nine Lives of Marion Barry)

This documentary "manages to make you see him as a human being," said David Zurawik in The Baltimore Sun, rather than just "the profane, night-vision green figure viewed by millions in an FBI 'sting' video of him smoking crack cocaine in the hotel room of a woman who wasn't his wife." But "don't get me wrong," this "powerful film" cuts Barry "no slack"—it exposes him "warts and all."

The filmmakers suggest that people like Barry "because his troubles look like theirs," said Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times. But "for all his screen time, you will not get to the bottom of him” by watching The Nine Lives of Marion Barry. "The few words he has to say of his travails boil down to something no more revealing, and no less true, than 'Life is hard.'" But that doesn't "make the subject any less fascinating."