“Gotti” is as awful as you’ve heard, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Nobody, from a professional critic to an average moviegoer to anybody who has ever seen just one movie in their entire life, can think this is any good. And if they do, I would recommend you never trust their judgment on anything ever again.
John Travolta stars as infamous crime boss John Gotti, a powerful man who rose to the top of the Gambino crime family in New York City. The film spans three decades of his life, from his home persona as a family man to his multiple jail sentences, is recounted by his son John Jr. (Spencer Rocco Lofranco) in a series of confusing flashbacks. The movie tries to cram way too much into less than two hours and manages to barely touch the surface of the more interesting aspects of Gotti’s life.
The end result is an incoherent jumble not unlike that of puzzle pieces thrown together in a bag, shaken up, and heaved on the screen in an astonishing display of haphazard incompetence. There’s a wealth of captivating and lurid material about the famous “Teflon Don,” but the bullet points of Gotti’s life presented in this film are so cluttered that everything gets lost. Little makes sense, the erratic chronology doesn’t work, and Kevin Connolly‘s dreadful direction is full of excruciatingly poor choices that include moments like when Gotti’s son gets run over by a neighbor (blame editor Jim Flynn for lending a helping hand in this scene, a bumbling series of handheld close-ups and rapid cuts between a bicycle, the glare of the sun, squealing tires, and a simmering pot roast) and when a surprise car explosion is set to “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys. Huh?
Adding to the fray of the storytelling method are misplaced archival footage clips of the real Gotti in action, and the unsettling feeling that the filmmakers idolize their subject as some kind of folk hero. At several points in the story they actually try to make you feel sorry for this murderous mobster. Guess what? I don’t. You know who I did leave the theater feeling sorry for? Travolta.
“Gotti” is Travolta’s pet project, a film he thought would put him back at the top of Hollywood’s A-list. He truly believed this was the performance that would define his career, and he threw much time and money behind the film. He’s terrible in it. Terrible. Playing Gotti from age 30 until his death at 61, Travolta is saddled with lousy makeup that only accentuates his overblown grimacing with scowling jowls and furrowed brow. This series of endless mugging for the camera feels like a parody actor intentionally overacting as a spoof of a well-known historical figure. Travolta is a crummy actor anyway, but here he is on par with Tommy Wiseau in “The Room.” You’re tearing me apart, Barbarino!
Sometimes the performances break through with a glimmer of entertainment, but only because they are unintentionally funny. This most often occurs whenever Kelly Preston (as Gotti’s wife Victoria) is onscreen with her bad wig and even worse fake accent. I failed to contain my laughter at one point in the film when she looks directly at her husband and, with all sincerity, says “I love youse.” Ditto for the whiny, wide-eyed blunder of a performance from Lofranco. The actors deliver their lines so poorly that this film begs to be destined for a future of audience participation screenings, shown ironically at midnight to a packed house of college kids who yell back and throw props at the screen.
“Gotti” isn’t just one of the worst mob movies ever made — it holds the distinction of being one of the worst movies ever made. Travolta was right about one thing: he will be winning some awards at the end of the year. But they’ll be Razzies and not Oscars.