The Just For Men budget on the set of Kevin Connolly’s Gotti must have been astronomical. I’ve never seen so many heads of so obviously dyed hair. It’s a film that tries so very hard to be edgy yet worthy; violent yet philosophical. After several failed attempts at cinematic release, the film finally came to light this year. And, to be honest, it’s easy to see why it struggled to get off the ground. It really would have been better to let this turgid mess sleep with the fishes.
The film is supposed to chart the rise to power of infamous New York mobster, John Gotti (played by John Travolta), with an insight as to his family life and his time in prison. Sadly, Leo Rossi and Lem Dobbs script fails to deliver on any of this. Things largely just happen, lurching from one event to the other with no clear storyline. Even as Gotti allegedly amasses more power and a higher rank within the “five families”, he spends most of his time mooching in bars.
There is no tangible, thought through plot, just a series of scenes that jump on ahead. There is no time devoted to building up relationships and characters, making it impossible to care about anyone and – most importantly – be willing to follow the plot. The script is riddled with clichés and empty speeches about “the life”. I don’t believe real Mafioso spend this much of their time philosophising. It’s also highly unlikely that they say “la cosa nostra” as often as they do in this fucking film.
There are also several weird uses of stock footage. I kid you not, there are clear examples of stock scenes of motorways and fireworks. There is no attempt to blend them into the action – they just sit there, like an unwelcome guest at a party. The soundtrack is also a bizarre one. It’s so imposing and adds absolutely nothing to the film. If they were aiming for something like Nino Rota’s searing Godfather score, they’ve been badly shortchanged. It’s composed by Pitbull – Mr Worldwide himself – so that should tell you all you need to know.
It would be easy to poke fun at his many, many hair pieces but Travolta, as the Teflon Don, is actually the best thing in the film – and I never thought I’d be saying that. His accent is good, minus a few slip ups, and he does seem to be relishing in the character. There’s only one scene – when he reacts to news in the hospital – that prompts laughter due to its ridiculousness. Other than that, he looks and sounds the part. Kelly Preston, however, is beyond terrible. She constantly sounds like she’s chewing gum and – despite the fact that she’s actually married to the guy – has no chemistry with Travolta whatsoever.
It’s clear what this film wants to be: a gritty biopic of one of New York’s most notorious characters. But when you’ve seen “the mob” done right, it makes Gotti even more unbearable. Having watched The Sopranos and, more recently, the Italian TV series, Gomorrah, Kevin Connolly’s effort positively pales in comparison.
I had hoped that Gotti – given initial reviews – was going to be so bad it was hilarious but it’s just really bad. Travolta certainly pushed for this as a personal project, but it’s not clear why. Surely even he lost interest in the script on a first read?
That being said, Travolta is not the laughing stock of this piece. True blame must lie squarely with the script and the direction. And you can’t have such key elements of any film so poorly executed.