Gotti (2018)

A black and white photograph of a man in a business suit. In bold orange text the tagline: He showed the world who's boss.Director: Kevin Connolly
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Starring: John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Stacey Keach, Spencer Lofranco, Pruitt Taylor Vince, William DeMeo, Chris Mulkey, Leo Rossi, Chris Kerson

Long languishing in development hell, the tale of John Gotti's rise as head of the Gambino Crime Family finally made it's way to the big screen, starring John Travolta in the eponymous role, while directed by Kevin Connolly (yes, one of the stars of Entourage). Spanning over three decades, and showing the effects such a position had on Gotti's family, any cinematic potential is wasted upon people who seem to have no idea what should be done.

First impressions are important, and this is especially true for films. An opening scene should do whatever it can to grab viewers attention, be it to set up what will ensue over the following runtime, tell you whatever needs to be known about our leads, or even just have a big action set-piece. So, what first impression does this film leave? John Travolta in character, looking directly into the camera, and declaring how New York is the best city in the world. It's a scene that doesn't last long, leaving one to wonder if this was a poorly thought out advertisement for the city, somehow accidentally left in at the start of this feature film.

What about the plot, though? Yes, that was an ill-thought out beginning, but it must be all uphill from there? Well, if you've seen a gangster movie before, especially if you've seen Goodfellas before, then prepare for an overwhelming feeling of Deja Vu. What Kevin Connolly has delivered is an assortment of tropes and scenes you've seen before a multitude of times, and guaranteed will have witnessed enacted much better anywhere else. Even when saying that, there's a refusal to show many important parts of the story. Instead, they're told in conversation between characters, in the most banal, and yawn inducing, ways.

But outside of the utter incompetence on show, what's most baffling is the complete romanticism for this lifestyle included. There seems to be more of an interest to treat Gotti as a deity, rather than approaching his violent nature with any kind of objectivity. Yet, even with this bout of hero worship, there's little to this character we're supposed to follow. The only attempts, and I struggle to call them that, are lazy short hands at characterization, where he gets angry at the idea of his child dressing as a cop for Halloween, and orders one of his men to help an old lady with her shopping. He also reminds his grieving wife of the four children they have, which is ironic, when he seems to forget 75% of them even exist.

But what about our lead performance, as famed star John Travolta takes the titular role? He approaches it completely seriously, as though there's an expectation it'll be the role which nets him that Oscar win. Unfortunately, this means we're stuck with 104 minutes of him mumbling ham-fisted dialogue all throughout, while wearing a constant grimace on his face. Never mind getting an Academy Award, Travolta looks as though he's trying not to shit himself.

By the time a cop yells "Next time, Gotti. Next time", one is left to wonder whether they're watching a Saturday morning cartoon, rather than a feature film that had a $10 million budget. Considering the time-frame supposedly lasts three decades, the passage of time is poorly defined. Important events pass by as though someone's ticking them off a checklist, leaving no room for them to breathe, hold any kind of weight, hold some semblance of a believable relationship, or even actually occur.

The way characters flit in and out of the picture, it brings to mind another recent film, The Predator. But where studio interference was the reason behind such ridiculous changes which made little sense on the screen, this is just a sign of the ineptitude in Kevin Connolly's direction. But when he puts on the screen the main character casually threatens his wife with spousal abuse, which is treated as a joke, there's little reason to trust in his direction. Perhaps a blind chimp would've done a better job?

Gotti is proof that, not only can you not polish a turd, but you can't replicate the success of Goodfellas by ripping it off in such a moronic and inept manner. Prepare for this to go down in infamy, as it truly is awful.