Gotti stars John Travolta as the legendary 1980s icon of organized crime and dressing well while doing it, John Gotti, Sr. As he did playing Attorney Robert Shapiro for American Crime Story: The People Versus O.J. Simpson, Travolta disappears into the role and with the exception of some older age makeup used to portray John Gotti in the 1990s, Travolta proves that he is an under appreciated Actor and he carries the movie almost single handed for many scenes though I do want to point out Pruitt Taylor Vince, Stacey Keach, Chris Mulkey and rising star William DeMeo, who portrays Sammy Gravano, are solid in every scene they appear in. One wishes the relationship between Gravano and Gotti was explored in more depth because it would have added more pathos to the events that occur later in the film. Spencer Rocco Lofranco portrays John Gotti, Jr., with an amiable quality that reminded me a bit of Lillo Brancato in A Bronx Tale.
Actor turned Director Kevin Connolly makes his feature film debut here and one gets a sense that he may have been experimenting with different styles of filmmaking and then just edited what worked individually to form the completed feature film, but ultimately the sum is not as good as some of the parts.
It opens with Travolta addressing the viewers directly and it is a very strong opening, but then the film chooses to cut between various times in both Gotti and his son's lives, but Gotti, Jr. comes off too one dimensional. He basically seems like a nice level headed guy, who follows his father into the business and then is unfairly persecuted by the government. I do not know anything about Gotti or his son personally, but I should not have to. Though this may be an unfair comparison, but I did not know anything about the Henry Hill and the characters portrayed in Goodfellas, but I had no problem getting emotionally involved with the characters, including the background players, who all had character traits that made me remember who they were even if I did not know their names.
In Gotti a lot of the background players just disappear with the exception of the Actors whose faces I recognized from other projects. If the characterization of Gotti's son was fleshed out more, then maybe I would feel emotionally happy when he proves his case toward the end of the film. As it stands, all I can state about John Gotti, Jr. in the film is he seemed like such a nice kid, I am almost surprised he was attracted to follow in his father's footsteps, regardless of what ultimately happened.
William DeMeo is terrific in his scenes, but his appearances suffer from a similar dislocation from Gotti that his son's characterization does. We know what will happen to Gravano and the devastating effect it has on the Gotti family, not the least John Gotti, but what did he do to win Gotti's trust to begin with. Gotti states he did not trust him because he never did time and later repeats it after he has been betrayed, but aside from a few whispers here and there, I am left with the question, How did Gravano win Gotti's trust?
I almost get the sense that in trying to portray a different and more sympathetic image of Gotti for the film, the writers and producers forgot that no one going to see this movie was expecting a documentary that was fact for fact honest. They came to see drama and drama is characters we care about in conflict and it does not matter who the characters are, we have had decades of films dealing with organized crime and some highly successful television shows too. People will root for the antihero if they care about him and those around him.
Despite the talent involved, Gotti ultimately feels underdeveloped. Please note though that for individual performances alone, especially John Travolta, Gotti is far from a bad film. It is just disappointing because it does not live up to the larger than life persona of the man who inspired it.
(C) Copyright 2018 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.