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Gotti 2018 Movie Review – Oh My F*cking Gotti
I just saw Gotti, and let me tell you: If you want to watch four or 90 middle-aged Italian-American men grimace and seethe at each other for two hours, I have the film for you. (It’s Gotti.) (But still don’t see it; the grimacing/seething middle-aged Italian-American man genre is already deep enough to accommodate you.)
As for me, I am furious at a long list of things that includes but is not limited to the following: John Travolta, crime rings, pinky rings, every Robert De Niro impression I’ve ever seen, that thing when The Sopranos was on HBO and people started saying “stugots,” courtroom scenes, out-of-the-way diners where men have very serious conversations, and wigs.
Gotti begins with a bang, which is the sound of my head hitting the palms of my hands. A bewigged John Travolta enters the frame as a 60-ish John Gotti, glances over the present-day New York City skyline, and then—over my audible objections (sorry, the other three of you in the theater)—speaks directly to camera. “New York is the greatest city in the world,” he informs us.
(Did you know that New York is the greatest city in the world? People in movies and TV shows tend to keep this fact close to the vest, but it’s true.)
He goes on to tell us that lives like his “end one of two ways: dead or in jail. I did both.” Seems like a mobster dying in jail is common enough not to be a bragging point, but the film does answer a burning question I’ve had since my Catholic childhood: In the afterlife, are you young and full of energy, or do you stay the age you were when you died? Gotti posits that neither is true; in Heaven, you are whatever age John Travolta is now, you stay that way forever, and your hair looks very natural and full and great.
Do we then go back to Gotti’s childhood and tell the story chronologically? We do not. We go to a jailhouse meeting between a dying Gotti and his son, now apparently a grown-up mobster in his own right, who is considering copping a plea so he can reduce his sentence and thereby maximize his time with his family. This seems like a perfectly sensible idea, but Gotti, in the first of nine thousand gruff monologues, disagrees. Then, after a montage of archival footage set to a new song by Pitbull and Leona Lewis—no, seriously: “For this crime epic, I will need Mr. Worldwide and Grizabella from the latest Cats revival… together,” said E from Entourage, who directed this movie, probably in character—we jump back and forth through the elder Gotti’s life of crime.
“For this crime epic, I will need Mr. Worldwide and Grizabella from the latest Cats revival… together,” said E from Entourage, who directed this movie, probably in character.
Here’s the thing about jumping back and forth through an elder anyone’s life of crime: There is a lot of time to cover, and a lot of characters. And in Gotti, a dimly-lit movie where all the supporting characters have the same haircut, and names that sound similar when they are mumbled, and all of the actors somehow manage to mumble even when they scream, you need some help. Gotti tries, with both Travolta’s voiceover and actual on-screen chyrons identifying each new guy as he enters. But it is not enough. You will not be able to tell Manny “The Polyp” Testarossa from Benny “The Meat Thermometer” Guadagigno. Seriously, not even the actors can keep up; one guy absolutely calls John Gotti, Jr. “Paul” in one party scene, and he got paid to be in the movie. You didn’t, so what hope is there for you?
“Wait, is that Jimmy ‘The Llama’ Petrone whacking Johnny ‘The Ham Radio Enthusiast’ Mortadella,” you will ask yourself, “or the other way around?” I could do this all day, guys. I would rather do this all day.
I would rather do this all day because my other option is telling you what happens in Gotti, which your guess is as good as mine. There is so much time-jumping and grunted references to quarrels between people you don’t even know whether you’ve seen (Lenny “The Telemarketer” Tantravazzi and Sal “The Barren Schoolmarm” Pentathlona really had it in for each other) that you’re never quite sure where you are. The chyron tries to keep up with all the time-shifting, but there’s only so much that numbers on a screen can do. You end up marking the time by Travolta’s ever-changing, RuPaul’s Drag Race reunion episode-sized gallery of wigs. Because there are no real law-enforcement or lawyer characters in this movie to give his crimes or cases any exposition or context, it ends up just being a lot of vague talk about da boss and da case and da life and cosa nostra and then a bunch of people get shot and you’re kind of jealous of them.
Gotti is a lot of vague talk about da boss and da case and da life and cosa nostra and then a bunch of people get shot and you’re kind of jealous of them.
The real thing to talk about here is the movie’s bold new internet marketing campaign, which does something so gross, so craven, so distinctly 2018 that I am actually in awe. You see, Gotti has received the rare 0% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, which means every single person who gets paid to think and talk about movies has thought and talked about how terrible Gotti is. Instead of taking their failing score and trying to wring some morbid curiosity out of it, they have fully seized the spirit of the moment.
I mean, check this shit out:
Audiences loved Gotti but critics don’t want you to see it… The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself! pic.twitter.com/K6a9jAO4UH
— Gotti Film (@Gotti_Film) June 19, 2018
This tactic is so Donald Trump that you can see the Scotch tape on the back of its tie. It is exactly the way our president talks about himself vis a vis the press. “Who are you going to trust about the state of the world: a whole class of people who have spent their lives asking questions so that they can contextualize it through verifiable, fact-checked stories, or me, an incurious born-rich narcissist who has no friends and can’t spell?”
In this marketing campaign, the simple fact that Gotti is a bad movie badly made is fake news. People who resent having their time wasted are trolls. If, like me, you take the time to wonder why we’re telling this story—this story about white guys who murder the fuck out of each other and are still treated fairly respectfully by law enforcement—in a world where we’ve all seen the police choke a black guy to death for selling loose cigarettes, then you’re probably something much worse. I am proud to be whatever that thing is.
(Also, many many of the accounts that gave Gotti a positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes were created this month and have never reviewed another movie, so make of that what you will.)
Heaven Gotti comes back at the end of the movie and tells us, “You’ll nevah meet anudda guy like, me… Not even if you live to be a TOUSAND!” Boom, end of movie. Lights up on four weary moviegoers thinking, “Promise?”
Ugh. Take it from a troll: Gotti is a terrible, terrible movie. Stay away from it, stugots.