John Travolta plays the eponymous real-life mob boss in Gotti, very much this decade’s Battlefield Earth. Both films star a mad-haired Travolta, lost millions of dollars, and saw their parent companies investigated for fraud.
You’ve heard films compared to watching a train wreck, but this is like sticking around to witness the botched rescue operation, a maimed victim being rushed to painful surgery, the hospital running out of drugs so he has to be awake for the entire operation. Meanwhile his wife struggles with the hospital bills and turns desperately to alcohol. And then their son has children of his own but is so traumatised he finds himself incapable of love, and ritually desecrates the grave of the father he’s always blamed. Still, better than Swordfish.
Like Swordfish, the film tries to make aspects of the criminal world seem appealing, but fails spectacularly and just makes it look tacky and a bit boring. It’s two hours long and is mostly spent watching Travolta in a parade of bad wigs, outfits and prosthetics, playing the older, incarcerated Gotti (left) and the younger, flashback version (below) who still comes across as a confused old man.
The rest of the movie is comprised of inane conversations on weirdly unfinished, empty sets, including a dining room scene that’s clearly filmed in an old garage, where the Mafia discuss their various families: “The Bananas will not be happy.” They also call the Mob “the Enterprise” all the way through, which makes it sound like they all work for the United Federation of Planets. If they are aliens it might explain why no one looks the age they’re supposed to and why everyone appears as though made of plastic.
Travolta’s leading turn is so knuckle-bitingly ridiculous that we don’t even realise the movie is trying to celebrate this gangster until the ending, involving footage of real New Yorkers praising Gotti, followed by a supposedly vindicating closing caption. From its straight-to-DVD quality to its straight-to-administration performance, this is the most disastrous attempt to lionise a New York mobster since Fox News.