If anything, “Gotti” will go down as one of the most infamous movies of 2018. It’s a movie was in development hell for years, snuck up on audiences, and garnered a ton of bad reviews. And it responded by insulting critics and talking down to its audience. Make no mistake though, “Gotti” is bad. It’s very bad. It’s pure Oscar bait, with a director who realty wants his film to be “Goodfellas,” and a leading star who is so completely out of his lane it’s kind of sad to watch. Here John Travolta doesn’t seem to be acting, so much as competing for an Oscar nod, and it’s an endurance test from beginning to end.
John Travolta plays John Gotti, the iconic mob boss, and so confident is director Kevin Connolly in his star, that he allows Travolta to play the man in all stages of his life. From a young up and coming criminal, to an old man suffering from cancer, Travolta is always covered in make up, and never quite pulls off a convincing performance. Director Connolly jumps from time period to time period, first with awkward book ended narration that breaks the fourth wall, and then by skipping from Gotti as a young man, to Gotti as an old man, to Gotti as a family man. It’s all so confusing and muddled that you’ll spend more time trying to make sense of the movie, than appreciating the emotional weight of a man who lost his son to a horrible car accident.
Travolta (whose turn feels less like an aged Gotti and more like an aged Vinnie Barbarino if he’d turned to a life of crime after his time with the Sweathogs) is hopelessly stuck in a movie that is confusing, painfully dull, and dabbles in camp so often that it’s impossible not to chuckle at least once. Travolta goes all out donning prosthetics, and wigs, and weird contact lenses and never does anything with them. Instead he just trots out a really bad “Noo Yawkah” accent and expects the rest to fill itself in. Truth be told, Travolta performs like he’s acting in a mid-week dinner theater production during a lull in attendance. This is a man who should have evolved by now with better roles, but he just keeps falling in to these cinematic pieces of junk that seem more motivated to be thought of as vehicles, and less as works that challenge its star.
To make matters worse, “Gotti” inexplicably transforms in to surreal a vanity project with Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston chewing the scenery as Gotti’s long suffering wife, with an equally awful Noo Yawkah accent. Pruitt Taylor Vincent, who is typically a strong character actor, even suffers with a sub-par turn as Gotti’s right hand man Angelo. In the end, “Gotti” is more a series of small poorly directed episodes in the life of John Gotti, and less a chronicle of the rise and fall of the Teflon Don. In a few years I imagine movie fans will at least appreciate it as a camp classic in the tradition of “Mommy Dearest.”