The Worst Gangster Movie of All Time Gets Everything Wrong


The Big Picture

  • Gotti
    fails at being a modern gangster film classic, with a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and laughable performances.
  • The film protrays Gotti in a naive, distorted manner as a family man, lacking depth and falling short of mob genre standards.
  • John Travolta’s performance in
    comes off as a poor impersonation, contributing to the film’s unintentional comedic nature.

It is ideal to go big or go home when making a movie. This idealist attitude swings both ways, as instead of creating a cinematic masterpiece, you create a hilariously awful movie that is forever canonized. Perhaps it’s more advantageous to be comically inept rather than forgettably inept, but with a film like Gotti, being a film of such poor quality is concerning. This film aspires to be a modern gangster film classic. While the genre has produced some of the great films in history–ones that are timeless and revisited by multiple generations of viewers, misguided attempts at reaching the same heights as The Godfather and Goodfellas often result in colossal creative failures. Simply put, Gotti got everything wrong, and that’s why it developed the same notoriety as its titular subject.


The story of crime boss John Gotti and his son.

Release Date
June 14, 2018

112 Minutes

‘Gotti’ Is a True Story That Plays Like a Satire

Based on the story of the infamous Gambino crime family boss, John Gotti, the film is a loose dramatization of Gotti’s (John Travolta) rise in the criminal underworld and his extensive history with criminal prosecution. The release of Gotti in 2018 was a collection of baffling decisions. The Gotti story was stuck in development hell, with the early stages of production going back to 2010, with a different studio and cast. Not only was the film distributed by a division of the movie ticket vendor, MoviePass, but it also premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious film festival in the world, before its theatrical release. The film’s score was composed by none other than rapper Pitbull. Gotti is directed by Entourage alum Kevin Connolly, who had directed two other films prior. Connolly’s third film, which currently holds the rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, was conspicuously his last feature film as a director.


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While it’s not fair to judge a book by its cover, sometimes, a film’s opening minutes can perfectly capture what’s in store for the rest of the narrative. Gotti‘s opening needs to be seen by the naked eye to be believed. If someone described the scene to you, you’d think it was a Saturday Night Live sketch. “Let me tell you something, New York is the greatest fuckin’ city in the world,” Gotti says, breaking the fourth wall as he stands in front of the Brooklyn Bridge. “This life ends in one of two ways: dead, or in jail. I did both,” he states, as audiences get the full scope of Travolta’s cartoonishly broad mafioso performance, accompanied by a score blending classic Italian tunes with a Pitbull hip-hop track.

Upon watching this introduction, viewers are forced to reckon with the possibility that they unknowingly signed up to watch a clever satire of the gangster genre. Perhaps Gotti will do to the gangster film what Walk Hard did to the music biopic. Unfortunately, this hopeful prophecy was all for nothing, as the film lacks any tangible self-awareness to assert itself as the next great parody movie. Despite its caricature-driven performances, choppy writing, and uneven pace standing in its way, Connolly and his writers, Leo Rossi and Lem Dobbs, are convinced that they have crafted the crime epic of this generation. The veneer of self-seriousness is grating on the viewer, undermining any flirtation that the film is a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece.

‘Gotti’ Learns All the Wrong Lessons From Past Gangster Movies

Gotti presents alarming textual shortcomings to a degree that can’t be dismissed, even though the film is embraced as a kind of schlocky B-movie designed to be ridiculed by Mystery Science Theater 3000. The film suffers from a warped and retrograde interpretation of its subject and organized crime. This only becomes more problematic when a film is based on a true story, notably one centered around a violent criminal. Naysayers bemoan Martin Scorsese for glorifying his gangster subjects without explicitly condemning their actions, but the critics’ real target should be Gotti. The film unapologetically shapes Gotti as a noble family man who was burdened with an onslaught of judicial prosecution, and its naivety in confirming Gotti’s nobility further clarifies that Connolly has little to no interest in exploring the psychological and societal impact of the gangster’s actions.

Tonally, the most glaring issue with Gotti is that it feels like it was crafted by people who unironically valorize Goodfellas and Casino as “cool,” and not nuanced portrayals of the alluring nature of crime and the toxicity of capitalist greed. The film takes so much glee in its execution of violent sequences, but it lacks the intoxicating fervor of Scorsese’s brutality. Gotti depicts graphic slayings, but they are ultimately vapid. It doesn’t help that certain sequences, such as Gotti’s first hit inside a bar, are accompanied by haphazard needle-drops (the overused “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple) that, once again, would serve better for a Zucker Brothers parody of a Scorsese film.

Keeping with the half-baked Scorsese tropes, Gotti follows a non-linear structure, jumping back and forth between Gotti’s ascent to power and an aging Gotti in custody talking to his son, John Jr. (Spencer Rocco Lofranco). This formalist approach to the narrative devolves into an unnecessary labyrinth of a viewing experience. Travolta’s narration is devoid of the poetic reflectiveness of Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro sharing their conflicting feelings of regret and yearning for a return to crime. This film uses narration to forcefully remind the audience that, deep down, despite his immorality, John Gotti was just a family man.

John Travolta’s ‘Gotti’ Performance Feels Like an Impersonation

Gotti, a film that longs to be taken seriously as an artistic statement, is visually impotent. The drab aesthetic of the film complements the film’s self-importance. There is hardly anything to latch on to in the film, as the performances are a collection of stereotypical accents and mannerisms that best serve as unintentional satire. John Travolta has sporadically demonstrated greatness throughout his turbulent career, but for every Saturday Night Fever, Blow Out, and Pulp Fiction, he gives audiences Battlefield Earth, The Fanatic, and Gotti in return. His take on the notorious mafia boss distills all of his weaknesses — a performance defined by distinct choices that add up to nothing. Travolta is not calibrated to any psychological complex, and he plays this weighty role like a cheap impersonation.

Every once in a while, there are movies that are simply dead on arrival, destined to be mocked on a viral scale. As a result of broad performances, storytelling misfires, and a delusional understanding of its text, Gotti will live in infamy as a hilariously poor film. Anyone who takes Martin Scorsese for granted as just a “mob movie” director should watch Gotti, as it only spotlights the director’s genius. It’s easy to chalk up this film as “so-bad-it’s-good,” but unfortunately, the film fails to satisfy the urges of the ironic viewer. To its credit, Gotti is the rare film that gets everything wrong.

Gotti is available to watch on Prime Video in the U.S.

Watch on Prime Video


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