Rocks Reviews: Gotti

Starring: John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Stacey Keach

Director: Kevin Connolly

Streaming on: Prime

“This life ends one of two ways. Dead or in Jail.

I did both.”

*sighs*

If you ever encounter a film that has these lines of opening dialogue, I suggest you do the following.

  • Turn off the device which you are watching it on

I am a man of simple torture. I have watched most of Steven Seagal’s post 2000 back catalogue. I have watched the entire ‘Rise of the Footsoldier’ series. Twice. I even once wrote that I enjoyed a Danny Dyer film after a particularly bleak cinematic experience prior to it. But nothing could have fucking prepared me for this — the 2018 biopic of John Gotti starring John Travolta and 14 different hairlines.

“Directed by Kevin Connolly” should be a line that strikes fear into the hearts of anyone blessed with the power of sight. Let’s just put it out there now, Entourage has its place in time and space around 15 years ago. I also watched all of this and at the time I very much enjoyed it. But I was also late-teens and lived off Tennants lager, shots of Agwa and ready salted crisps. While it has its charms, its fair to say that most of the cast/crew of that series haven’t really done much since it finished — as I’m pretty sure midway through season 2 all their brains got replaced by old deli meat. And it shows with this fucking film — at which stage the ‘brain meat’ status has moved from ‘Old deli’ to ‘Nuclear Holocaust Kebab shop’.

I’m sure there is plot somewhere, but I swear to god I think you’d need Ludovico treatment to get through the first 20 minutes of this film. Every now and again we flip back to the late 90s where Gotti’s son is trying to argue with his father about taking a plea deal, to which Gotti is vehemently against. From this setting we flashback into the anthology of his many years of crime, prison and family tragedy whilst navigating the Mafioso of New York and working his way to the top of the Gambino crime family.

The first thing to note about this film is that the structure of it and the timeline is fucking all over the place. And dull about it as well. In the first ten minutes we see Travolta time-travel between 1973 and the late 1990s — with his looks veering from ‘Knock-off Lego Marlon Brando’ to ‘Johnny Bravo with an all-butter diet’ to ‘Emperor Palpatine has a threesome with Vincent D’Onofrio and Jigsaw from Punisher:War Zone’. Add into this that Travolta’s understanding of Italian mobsters seems to be ‘they talk with their hands’ and he channels this into looking like a weather reporter running into an electric fence whilst being stung by a swarm of bees. It’s amazing that a character portrayal this fucking chaotic in look and feel could also be as dull as a fucking rusty pool of water in a public urinal.

We move between gangsters having mind numbingly boring conversations in nightclubs to the death of Gotti’s son, to gangland murders and Gotti’s rise up the food chain with a level of dramatic crescendo equivalent to farting into a clarinet. There is no pacing, there is no tension, there is only shots of Travolta’s increasingly preposterous face attempting to find the muscle strength to combat the years of chemicals pumped into it to keep it youthful and pull some sort — ANY SORT- of expression.

Other than blinking, from the mouth up his face does not move. At all. Particularly after the death of his son, his performance (or lack of) is embarrassingly wooden compared with the hysterical-to-the-point-of-banshee Kelly Preston playing his wife, which means that a meaningful emotional plot-point becomes embarrassingly moot in the face of two horrifically differently toned reactions.

“Hi, I’m John Travolta and this is my range of facial expression. Yes — it’s just one picture”

As we move through the film. we get a gangster narration which is Goodfellas if it was Travolta reading Mr Magoo through a kids Karaoke mic. The lighting choices range from poor to baffling to ‘just fucking give us some’. The camera shot style is also as bonkers as the plot. We get carefully choreographed cinematic scenes between the gangsters but when we get to the court we appear to have the Arrested Development camera crew filming it. And then we have Stacey Keach doing a voiceover over a funeral as he has an intense conversation with Travolta about…well i don’t know…it sounded like gangster cliche bingo. Then we jump into some key dialogue in a bar as a hit is being carried out, which would be great if there was any chance of actually hearing it over the background noise and seventeen million gunshots from pistols one-by-one as a ganglord is assassinated. Honestly — it’s like Connolly had a fucking roulette wheel for what type of film-school-bullshit-trope he was going to murder that day — and in this respect he does his job fucking excellently.

The editing floor for this film must have been absolutely sensational — I cannot comprehend how anyone managed to put together this film in the order and style and say ‘yes, we can release this’. Fucking Jason Vorhees would have made a better job of cutting this.

I genuinely don’t remember this scene.

All the while we are being led through these scenes, we are somehow supposed to be rooting for Gotti as well. He’s painted like a Pablo Escobar folk-hero type figure who organises street parties and wants to see his son join the military. Well I have a fucking newsflash — John Gotti wasn’t a hugely nice person and if you wanted to elicit some fucking empathy for his character you should have invested in employing an actor who’s ability to express emotion solely relies on working out the half-life of the fucking testicle with a quiff that he calls a face.

Again, the film is not helped by having a cast of supporting characters which are barely even two dimensional. I couldn’t tell you a single supporting character’s name, other than Stacey Keach — who I recognise as a man who can act being told to grumble through dialogue like he’s gargling a backwash comprised of gravel, old porridge and the contents of the used socks under Satan’s bed. I literally couldnt describe any of the other characters in the film. At least with some of Seagal’s lesser effort he employs some supporting actors who are so terrifically batshit that you can get some kind of enjoyment. I was just introduced to faceless suited mafioso after faceless suited mafioso and in my head thinking as soon as I saw their face that there is no fucking danger they could act.

Paralyzed from the mouth up

Anyway as per all good gangster movies (this is not one) the rise and rise (in this case soundtracked by knockoff versions of The Who and The Bee-Gees composed by Pitbull — I shit thee not!) of Gotti in the first hour proceeds his downfall. And its not any fucking better than the first hour. Travolta’s Gotti produces the same level of emotion when he’s eventually jailed for murder as he presumably did when he ran out of Oregano for his Nonna’s sauce. Not that there is anything that fucking interesting in this film. If there were any good eating scenes in this film Travolta would have a well-done steak and a glass of fucking tap water sucked out of a napkin.

I’ve definitely made the mistake of suggesting that any films that I have watched before are in any way this bad. This film is such a hateful piece of mind-numbingly boring shite that they should have just written it off as a tax dodge/loss. Because literally no one comes out of this with any credit. Since this film: Travolta has released 4 films with a combined $350k box office — and only because one of them took $323k. His on-screen son has zero acting credits since. Kelly Preston is dead. Kevin Connolly has directed nothing since, had a sexual assault allegation against him and appeared in ‘Chick Fight’ — a 2020 ‘comedy’ co-starring Alec Baldwin. Stacey Keach — well I presume he is sitting on a beach somewhere drinking gallon jugs of Daquiri having been paid a king’s ransom to appear in this. Even the writers have done absolutely nothing at all since

And you know what, it’s no surprise at all that no one appearing or associated with this film has achieved anything of note since this film — because having an association to this film is like admitting to setting fire to baby animals whilst dressed in a Klan hood and singing Rolf Harris’ greatest hits. This is the worst film I’ve ever seen. I would sooner watch the Patriot on a loop for 24 hours, followed by 12 hours of Ouija Shark followed by the entireback catalogue of Neil Breen. It shouldn’t be possible to make a film this utterly fucking boring and terrible and hateful.

Positives: None. Absolutely Zero

Negatives: Everything

Rating: There is no number/word/symbol that can accurately portray how fucking awful this film is. Don’t watch it. Even for a laugh. It is absolutely 10000000% not worth it.

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Writing about Championship Manager 2001–02 with no regard for my own personal sanity.

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@CMOnTheRocks

Writing about Championship Manager 2001–02 with no regard for my own personal sanity.