Gotti review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Gotti is a substandard gangster biopic that sticks out for one of the most notable attack campaigns I’ve seen for a film. Biting back from the 0% Rotten Tomato scores, online ads by the studio proclaimed that film critics put a hit out on Gotti. The ad goes on to encourage audiences to see the film for themselves and not trust trolls behind keyboards. Look, Gotti, it’s nothing personal. It’s just business.
It’s not that John Travolta doesn’t give a decent performance as the title mobster. But he’s all over the place. John Gotti begins the film by addressing the camera with cliche talk about his rise and fall. Then the movie takes the route of being a “how it all started” type story with Gotti explaining himself in prison. Then it’s a sloppy montage of music from the era and mafia, playing itself off as a watered down version of at least a dozen other true-life mobster movies you’ve seen. This makes Gotti such a distant picture in that it not only lack a consistent tone but a perspective as well.
The film seems to almost have this violent urge to shrug off improving any aspect of the biopic formula, playing everything so safe to the point of being pointless. What exactly does this film present that you couldn’t get from a published biography or a documentary on John Gotti? Nothing much. It’s as though watching the inner thoughts of a high school student reading up on the facts of Gotti while scenes from Goodfellas clouds his mind.
All that is present is mere bullet points of Gotti. Sure, John’s story is unique in that he rose up from the ranks to become an unbeatable mob boss, earning name Teflon Don. But all that comes from building up his legacy are aimless scenes of familiar mob dialogue. Again, I just can’t shake that urge of this being some bootleg adaption of previous Gotti biopics, where the director spent more time watching mob movies than studying up on the man.
The biggest crime of Gotti is that it has no teeth, only used ones borrowed from better mafia movies. Travolta never comes off as truly threatening or powerful in the film, mostly a result of a script that doesn’t do him or the figure justice. It’s all style and no content, dressing up lots of old guys in fancy gangsters suits, showcasing lots of parties and weddings, Sinatra music stirring in the background. Trying to mix it up, the soundtrack will then choose popular music of the 1980s and 1990s. It doesn’t matter if they fit within the context of the scene; they’re just added whenever. I guess you need something to tell which year the next hit or scuffle is going down on.
Gotti never goes deep into its subject, keeping nearly every aspect shallow with drama and ripe with mob movie trimmings. Am I putting a hit out on Gotti? I don’t think so; putting out a hit would encourage one to seek it out. And there are far better mob movies worth your time than this toothless stroll through cliche alley, where true mob stories are gutted into knock-off Goodfellas features.