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The movie holds the dubious distinction of a zero percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As of noon PT, the film had collected just 13 reviews, and all 13 are considered “rotten.”
Gotti’s zero percent rating is not the first time Travolta has received the dubious distinction. According to Wikipedia’s list of films with a zero percent rating on the movie review website, two other films by the actor — 1983’s Staying Alive and 1993’s Look Who’s Talking Now! — also received a zero.
Other film critics have also been unkind.
Jordan Mintzer’s assessment for The Hollywood Reporter cautions, “The film is pretty terrible: poorly written, devoid of tension, ridiculous in spots and just plain dull in others.” He also mentions that though it took Travolta, who serves as the film’s executive producer, eight years to get the project into theaters, “the father-son story never quite works.” (The film sheds light on Gotti’s 12-year-old son, Frank, who was killed in a car accident in front of the family’s home.)
“Gotti spends a long time portraying the emotional aftermath of the death (the film is dedicated to Frank), but very little effort is made to build any sort of suspense around its main characters,” writes Mintzer. When the film flashbacks between Gotti in prison and pivotal moments of the gangster’s life, the audience catches only glimpses of his would-be partners in crime. The critic writes that the “men are shown without real flair or distinction, as if they were background extras in an episode of The Sopranos.”
The work by Travolta, who underwent a transformation to resemble the crime boss, is something Mintzer approves of, writing that the actor is “a lively presence in some scenes.” However, Mintzer dismisses Spencer Rocco Lofranco’s portrayal of Gotti Jr. as something “shipped in from Jersey Shore” for he “never seems the right age for the part, especially when Junior is supposed to be running the Gambino clan after his dad is locked up.”
The New York Times critic Glenn Kenny also disapproves of the mob biopic, deeming Travolta’s film a “dismal mess.” Though Kenny finds Travolta’s physical transformation to be decent, the actor’s voice is less appealing. “The conceit of Gotti speaking to the audience from beyond the grave might have been more effective had he been given dialogue that didn’t make him sound like an idiot,” writes the critic, who finds Travolta’s Getty “nothing more nor less than petty” and “far from being any kind of Machiavellian mastermind” that the crime boss was known to be.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich believes “John Gotti deserved better,” for the film is “not really anything.” Ehrlich writes that the movie’s varied scenes fail to last for “more than a minute” and no shot lasts “more than a couple seconds.” “It’s the ‘7-Minute Abs’ version of Goodfellas, but somehow so much worse than that sounds,” he writes. “The only supernatural thing about this film is the courage that must have been required to unveil it at Cannes, where it surfaced alongside a tribute to Travolta designed to look back on better roles.”
New York Daily News’ Stephen Whitty gives the film one star out of five, simply because Travolta appears to be “having fun,” but that doesn’t mean his performance is any less misguided. “Chewing on the scenery like it was a meatball hero, he swaggers around in shiny suits and silver wigs, barking orders.”
Meanwhile, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times takes issue with the film’s failure to accurately depict the Gotti era. “Aside from the wardrobe and the makeup, Gotti falls far short of capturing period-piece details and never immerses us in the era,” writes the critic. Though Travolta can be a “commanding presence,” the film is unable to “fully capture the monstrous, casually murderous, thoroughly rotten core of a man who might have looked sharp and might have been a folk hero in his neighborhood — but rose to power and fame on bloodshed and evil and a lifetime of corruption.”
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Karlovy Vary International Film Festival