Gotti (2018) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
John Travolta as John Gotti
Kelly Preston as Victoria Gotti
Stacy Keach as Neil Dellacroce
Spencer Lofranco as John Gotti Jr.
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Angelo Ruggiero
William DeMeo as Sammy Gravano
Chris Mulkey as Frank DeCicco
Leo Rossi as Bartholomew Boriello
Chris Kerson as Wilfred Johnson
Victor Gojcaj as Father Murphy
Sal Rendino as Vincent Gigante
Director: Kevin Connolly

Raised on the streets of New York, young John Gotti (John Travolta) found his way into the Gambino crime family, eventually having the boss removed and becoming head of the powerful family. His wife (Kelly Preston) asked only one thing from John: to never expose their children to his profession. But he broke the vow, and John Jr. (Spencer Lofranco) took his place as his father’s Capo.

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I had been feeling the need to watch Gotti for some time, but not for the reason that they wanted. When Gotti got panned by critics, the marketing team for the film went all out on them, saying that critics hated the movie but “audiences loved Gotti”. That actually got some people to see the movie, including me. There’s also a weird connection with Gotti to MoviePass and Rotten Tomatoes but I’m not going to bother talking about that. Watching the movie finally, I can see why it received so much negativity. The writing is bad, the directing is bad, it’s not interesting, it’s boring, and it makes some questionable decisions. It doesn’t have enough redeeming or entertaining qualities to make watching it worthwhile.

If you look at the trailer for Gotti, the story looks straightforward and in chronological order. Unfortunately the movie jumps all over the place in time and I have no idea why. It just comes across as being jumbled for no reason, it really would’ve benefited by actually having the scenes in chronological order. There is no real focus to the story, Gotti is essentially an hour and 50 minutes of John Travolta playing John Gotti in random moments in his life. You just sort of stop trying to follow what’s going on at a point. I didn’t know too much about Gotti going into it and coming out of it I didn’t learn much more about him. Something that’s very apparent is that throughout the entirety of Gotti, it feels like they are trying to take a lot from other gangster movies like Goodfellas and Casino, such as the dialogue and certain directing choices (which I’ll get into later). With the way that it’s executed however, it comes across as very amateurish. It’s really difficult to care about what’s going on. For example, early in the movie, a member of Gotti’s family dies and it fails so incredibly badly at delivering any sort of impact. The most bizarre aspect however is how the filmmakers tried to present Gotti. This movie actually tries to portray Gotti as this likable family man, and it’s… really questionable. Ironically, despite the fact that they are clearly trying to take a lot from Martin Scorsese gangster films, they didn’t seem to pick up the fact that he didn’t try to make them likable or sympathetic, he just portrays them how they are. Maybe initially the lifestyle is presented as being great and glorious at first but by the end its made clear that it’s not a good thing. Kevin Connelly and everyone who worked on the story for Gotti seemed to only get the first half of that. In fact, this movie ends with a montage of Gotti supporters talking about how Gotti was a great guy and all that. The movie ends on a pro-Gotti note, and that is honestly one of the most bizarre endings that I’ve ever seen. The strangest thing is that we don’t really get to learn enough about why so many people liked him so much through the events shown, the film couldn’t even touch upon that aspect at least. I’m not sure how this movie ended up being so disastrous but I found out some things that could somewhat point towards it. This Gotti biopic took eight years to reach fruition, after several directors, cast changes, and script changes. On top of that, this movie has over 50 producers/executive producers, and I have never seen a movie with that astoundingly amount of producers. While there no doubt is a number of things wrong with this movie, these had probably contributed to it.

To their credit, the actors in the movie try to act their best but the writing and the direction really hinders them from being good. John Travolta is probably the best part about Gotti, he definitely puts everything into his performance. It’s not a great performance and he gets very over the top especially when he flips out, and at times it’s funny instead of being dramatic, but I’m almost glad that happened because hammy and over the top Travolta is always fun to watch, and added some entertainment to the movie. Other actors like Kelly Preston, Stacy Keach, Spencer Lofranco and Pruitt Taylor Vince didn’t give particularly good performances either but I don’t blame it on their talent, with the writing that they had, most actors wouldn’t be able to work wonders with it.

I’ve not seen Kevin Connelly’s work as a director, but his direction for Gotti wasn’t that good. Once again it feels like he’s trying to imitate other gangster movies. You have the protagonist narrating (the film opens and closes with John Travolta as Gotti talking directly to the camera), montages of things happening like people getting killed off, and much more like that. Gotti tries to imitate the style of classic A grade gangster movies but can’t pull off it. Pitbull did the score to Gotti (yes, you read it right, Mr Worldwide himself composed the score of a gangster movie) and it really wasn’t that good, he goes from having some synth-like music to trying to sort of imitate the Godfather score. Also, some of his songs made an appearance in the movie, you know, decades before the songs would even exist in real life. A lot of the score and song choices made the movie and scenes hard to take seriously at all. It’s so bizarre and out of place. Also, for a film with a $40 million budget, at times it feels so incredibly basic. One scene is a neighbourhood party and it features a couple shots of fireworks that looks like stock footage instead of actually being shot for the movie. Another aspect that is distracting is that John Travolta as Gotti has some flashforwards to when he is really older and he has a massive amount of makeup on him, but Gotti’s son played by Spencer Lofranco looks the same age in all his scenes, so I’m not sure what happened there. Those are just some examples of directing choices that really stood out as being particularly bad.

Gotti isn’t really worth watching, not even as a so bad it’s good kind of movie. It definitely has some elements that you can make fun of and have fun with, most of the time though it’s just uninteresting. In terms of legitimately good parts, the actors are trying their best and John Travolta at times is fun to watch, but that’s it. It’s not a horrible experience, but you don’t really get anything out of it at the same time. You don’t learn anything about John Gotti, and it’s not so outrageously bad that it’s fun to watch, it’s just the boring kind of bad. I guess the movie is mostly harmless enough but it’s not something to rush out to see as soon as possible, far from it.


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