Gotti (2018) Blu-ray Review: Sleeping with the Fishes

Despite the colossal amount of negative press it received during its theatrical run, I half-expected Gotti to at least have some entertainment value in how terrible it is. At certain parts of the movie, there is this feeling of glee when something so outrageously, horribly executed appears on the screen. It starts right at the beginning of the film when an establishing shot shows John Gotti (John Travolta) looking up to the stars and then turns to the camera and breaks the fourth wall as he begins to explain his story. He starts off by spouting generic, gangster lines such as “This city” and the like. He then looks directly into the camera, straight-faced, and tells the person who decided to subject himself or herself to such dreck that he is dead.

It’s not meant to be a joke. Or, at least, it doesn’t seem like it is. Gotti takes itself way too seriously to be considered a comedy or even a B-movie-level mobster flick. Yet, it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of its opening minutes. From there, it just goes about the formulaic path of every great mobster movie made before it. Travolta serves as voice-over narrator to explain every single detail of the events taking place throughout Gotti, as we see his rise to becoming the head of the Gambino family to when he finally gets thrown in prison and has to reevaluate his life and how he’s going to better serve his family.

It doesn’t help that, for the entire runtime, all I could see was Travolta doing a poor imitation of a mobster and trying to pass it off as John Gotti. There’s never a moment where he disappears into the performance, even under the heavy amount of makeup applied in the scenes in which he is older and near death. Sure, he’s trying, but it just comes across as ham-fisted. You can tell that Travolta really wanted recognition for the role, and there was a point prior to its release that he thought it would get him an Oscar nod. He’s committed, that’s for sure, but I don’t think he anticipated the reception he and the film ended up getting.

Equally as bad as Travolta is his real-life wife, Kelly Preston. She plays the wife of John Gotti and delivers a shrill performance with an accent that borders New Jersey more than it does New York. It’s almost as unconvincing as Travolta’s performance. Unlike Travolta, though, Preston doesn’t age in the film. Neither does anyone else in the cast, including Spencer Lofranco as Gotti Jr. There’s a visitation scene in which the 25-year-old Lofranco is supposed to look like he’s in his 40s, but there’s no makeup applied to him to make him look the part. He just has a pair of glasses on and a polo shirt.

Gotti doesn’t particularly have a cohesive plot. It just jumps back and forth between timelines, using Travolta’s horrendous voice-over narration for the film’s endless exposition. Director Kevin Connolly (yes, “E” from Entourage helmed this) also inserts the most obvious song choices to illustrate the timeframe in which the movie is set. For example, during a shootout that happens around Christmas, “Silent Night” is playing. It’s amongst the many go-to songs for the holiday season, and especially in the movies, but this one also explains how the gangsters getting gunned down will “sleep in heavenly peace.”

If that’s not egregious enough, Connolly also uses a lot of Pitbull songs for some reason. Pitbull didn’t even make it big until a few years after Gotti’s death, so that choice is not only baffling, but it’s also anachronistic.

The Blu-ray for Gotti feels like it was rushed through the manufacturing line without a single care in the world. After all the bad publicity, the way it was handled makes it seem like the studio just wanted to release it and forget about the whole thing. They probably assumed no one is going to actually purchase the film on Blu-ray, so they didn’t feel the need to give it a proper treatment. I don’t particularly blame them.

There are no special features on the Gotti Blu-ray. The picture comes in a 1080p high definition format with a 16×9 widescreen, 2.39:1 presentation. There are some moments where it seems the picture dropped in the transfer process, and there are blips of a completely black screen. If you blink, you might miss them. But it also happens so often that it’s hard to miss. The audio comes on a 5.1 Dolby track with no major concerns. The best part of the Blu-ray, though, is in the subtitles. If you turn the English closed-caption on for the movie, you’ll notice a bunch of grammatical errors and missing sentences. It makes the movie a tad more enjoyable.

Gotti will go down as not just one of the worst movies of the year, but also one of the most baffling films ever made. Its production value is more for low-budget, VOD titles than a big release. At the same time, though, this can be one in which you gather a group of friends and just laugh at the absurdities. It’s not worthy of a recommendation based on merit, but, at the same time, it’s worth a look just for the mild entertainment value it has with how bad it is.

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David Wangberg

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