First, let’s address the elephant in the room. John Travolta’s hair piece. Okay, I kid. I can say that, I’m a balding guy. The elephant in the room is…all the critics complaining that this is glorifying mob boss John Gotti. What I can’t figure out is why this never bothered anybody before. I loved Goodfellas, but at the time I asked everyone if they were bothered that Henry Hill gets to look cool. Nobody cared. When the Soprano’s came out I asked a few people if it glorified the mob. It showed that they can have families and be loving people. Crickets. So why now is everyone up in arms about a Gotti movie? My wife and I argued all the way on the drive home, because she felt it did glory him, and I didn’t. We did agreed on one thing…it’s not a very good movie.
It’s based on John Gotti, Jr.’s self-published memoir, and the work of screenwriters Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi. It’s directed by an actor — Kevin Connolly (Entourage).
Obviously, the film is filled with flashbacks. You don’t get the best sense of time and place. Sure, you hear Blondie blasting at a disco, and you get it. Or Deep Purple in an early ‘70s bar hit, with Joe Frazier fighting on the TV, you get an okay feel for the time frame. This is one of those rare movies where most of the songs they used during these moments I didn’t care for. For example, there comes a time in the ‘80s when they play the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls” (one of my least favorite songs), and when Duran Duran started blasting, I wondered how many mob folks were listening to Simon LeBon. The wife leaned in at that moment and said, “Are we just watching one long music video?”
A lot of the moments they showed us in flashback merely felt like other scenes we’ve seen in better mob films, just not as good. A bar fight that starts with an offer to buy drinks, and it escalates. That, and the scenes with popular tunes playing, felt like an attempt at Goodfellas.
A car being turned on and exploding. You wonder why any mob person ever gets into a vehicle. Some of the times though, the logic behind what was happening didn’t make sense. My wife and I were trying to figure out why, when Gotti gets the agreement from everyone to take out one of their own, he later acts like he wasn’t involved. And when that person is taken out, why one of his people in the bar basically admits it to the person he’s with that will surely want retribution.
Another problem with the various hits we see is…this comes off as…well, a “greatest hits” package. We don’t just want to see the various killings Gotti was involved in. It would be nice if there was a bit of tension or drama involved in how all of this went down.
There are moments that weren’t horrible, but you felt could’ve been better. For example, John Gotti Jr. (Spencer Rocco Lofranco) visiting his dad in jail (who is ravaged by cancer), telling him he wants out of the life. Good acting and decent writing, but it didn’t pack the emotional punch it should’ve.
There’s a scene where John Gotti loses a son during a car accident. Again, it doesn’t have the emotional heft it should.
It’s a shame, because they’re wasting some good talent. Travolta is great as Gotti. His real life wife Kelly Preston is good as wife Victoria.
Stacy Keach as Neil Dellacrose, is outstanding. One of the most underused and underrated character actors around — Chris Mulkey — is solid as Frank DeCicco.
This film has its moments, but it’s a rather uneven biopic that isn’t very insightful.
Before writing this, I did some research and found that they completely left out the fact that Gotti’s crew was involved in dealing heroin, and that was one of the main disputes he had with his boss Paul Castellano. With that bit of information, and the scene at the end that showed regular people talking to a news crew about how great Gotti was for the city…perhaps my wife was right. They glorified Gotti a bit.
The movie is currently getting 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. My wife, who’s half Italian, hated it. I liked it a bit more, but only enough to give it 1 ½ stars out of 5.