Unearthing The Garbage: Gotti

 Since I have wrapped up viewing and reviewing my punishment movies for losing the Summer Box Office Challenge, I decided to perhaps take a stroll down bad memory lane.  While the movies selected for my punishment are bad, most of the time I choose to watch bad films for no other reason than it seems like a good idea at the time.

This is my review for Gotti, a John Travolta vehicle which told the story of real life crime boss, John Gotti.  While this film isn't bad on the level of a Plan 9 From Outer Space, it is a film that idolizes a horrible person.  Sure, there are people who may admire some criminals, but a film has to work to show the viewer the possible good side of the villain.  Not this film.  A single line or two thrown in the middle of the movie about helping old ladies crossing the street (or whatever nonsense it was) doesn't cover it.  This is a film that was a slog to watch, with a story that had no intrigue and pointless scenes.  And a bad accent. 

Original Review - After my sister and I saw The Karate Kid, we tried having our own little kumite, ending up with me in pain.  Director Kevin Connelly seems to have seen Godfellas, gathered a group of friends, and decided to play 'gangster,' shooting their antics on camera.  If that excites you, then watch Gotti.  If, like a sane human being, that sounds like an awful way to create a movie, then do everything you can to make sure you do not come in contact with this film.

Quentin Tarantino revived the career of John Travolta, helping him get his second Oscar nomination for his performance as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.  After this happened, Travolta was everywhere. No longer did he have to hang his career on the success of the Look Who's Talking franchise (it's crazy to remember that this was an actual franchise).  It wasn't long until there was a dark cloud over his career that came in the shape of Psychlos enslaving man animals in Battlefield Earth.  The film was a wreck of a disaster, and a laugh fest when I saw it in theatres.  Things never seemed to be quite the same as they had been in the 90s, although he was part of a few successful films in the first decade of the new century.  Before long he was in criminally horrid films like Killing Season and The Forger.

This year, things have not managed to look up for this actor who was once so popular that he was in twelve movies across a four year span.  The latest role of Travolta is playing real life gangster John Gotti, a New York mob boss.  I will say this, it seems like ole J.T. is committed to the role and the accent that goes along with it.  While it isn't much better than a stereotypical Italian American accent, it is far ahead of the tripe that he served up in Killing Season.  Still, his performance is miles from any reason to spend even a minute with this film.

Penned by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi, the story follows the rise and eventual fall of Gotti.  Frustratingly, director Kevin Connelly uses too many awkward methods for telling the tale.  We get John Travolta book ending the film by looking into the camera and talking, we get narration, and an ice cream headache's worth of flash forwards and flash backs.  Any notion of a flowing story is completely lost in this incoherent mess, using a barrage of techniques that should normally be used sparingly and not in the presence of others.

With all of the jumping around, the makeup department is the unsung hero of this film, working to transform Gotti, but for some reason doing next to nothing to show the age changes of his son, who the story is apparently also about.  By the end of the movie, it is clear that Connelly envisioned John Gotti Jr (Spencer Rocco Lofranco) as a main character with an arc, but, like other elements in the movie, there is no sincere development towards this.

The movie is a mess, the acting is mundane, and the story is a shame.  I counted forty three producing credits listed on IMDB.  That is way too many people involved with this movie who did not slow things down to ensure the script even matched that of a grade twelve creative writing class.  Throughout the film, there is boredom, but it isn't the end of the world.  It is not so crazy offensive that you question the morality of those involved.  And then the movie ends, and you realize that we really should be questioning the morals of these people.

Out of the blue, at the end of the movie, an effort is put forward to turn John Gotti into a saviour.  News style man on the street interviews (yet another jarring narrative technique in the film) show citizens praising the gangster.  As the final few minutes wind down, there is an unshakeable understanding that Connelly and company didn't just want to tell this story, but that they admire this man and want to frame him as a benevolent member of the community.

All ethics aside for a moment, there is only one scene in the entire movie leading up to this that shows Gotti in a positive community light.  He gets one of his thugs to assist an elderly lady, and assures a young man that the local boxing gym won't close.  That's all.  Forty five seconds to establish what turns into the entire effort of the film.  From a purely technical standpoint, this is something that should infuriate the audience.

On an actual human level, this film is disgusting.  John Gotti Sr was a violent murderer.  He ended people's lives.  That is something that for some reason Connelly, Dobbs, and Rossi seem to either overlook, or to commend.  The fact that this movie turns into a shrine to this man is horrendous, despicable, and telling.  To have time, money, and effort put into something that is sincere about making this man into a hero is chilling.  It makes me question the moral compass of these people, and any conclusions that I come to are not flattering to them.

What started as just a sub par film morphs into a dirty little project.  I don't like the idea of writing people off and making judgements about the rest of their career, but I find myself wanting to do that with these people.  This movie is a stain on film making, and any praise that I would have for technical elements like make up are overshadowed by the deifying of a murderer.

Rating - 0 out of 4 stars