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John Travolta’s new film, Gotti, a biopic about the late mobster John Gotti, hits theaters Friday, and it’s already earned a rare distinction — a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie-review site.
As of noon PT, the film had collected just 13 reviews, and all 13 are considered “rotten.”
Travolta is no stranger to that dubious notoriety, though. Wikipedia’s list of movies with a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes includes his 1983 film Staying Alive and his 1993 film, Look Who’s Talking Now.
Reviewing the pic for The New York Times, critic Glenn Kenny writes, “That the long-gestating crime drama Gotti is a dismal mess comes as no surprise. What does shock is just how multifaceted a dismal mess it is.”
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.”
On the Metacritic review site, which measures critics’ judgments with a numerical grade, Gotti, based on five reviews, has currently earned a 27 out of a possible 100.
Gotti, debuting in 503 theaters in North America this weekend, has taken more than seven years to reach the screen. The R-rated drama is expected to gross between $1 million and $2 million during its first three days.
Its Friday gross amounted to $614,000, putting it on track for a potential $1.8 million weekend and a respectable per-screen average of about $3,500. The movie performed most strongly in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Moviegoers were more generous than the critics in their responses, with Rotten Tomatoes reporting that 80 percent of moviegoers rated the movie positively.
Since first being announced in 2011, the project has gone through a quartet of directors; its IMDb page lists 44 producers, executive producers and co-producers. Just this past December, its future appeared in doubt when distributor Lionsgate Premiere pulled it from the release schedule just 10 days before the movie was to hit theaters.
But Keya Morgan, an executive producer on the film who played a role in buying rights back from Lionsgate, promised the wait would be worth it. “It’s a masterpiece. It’s one of the best mob movies I’ve seen in years,” he told THR.
The saga began more than seven years ago when John Gotti Jr. turned down a reported offer from Sylvester Stallone and struck a deal with a man named Marc Fiore for a movie about Gotti’s late father. Fiore had only one film credit to his name, a direct-to-video pic called One, Two, Many, starring John Melendez, who’s better known to Howard Stern fans as “Stuttering John.” But Fiore also had a partner, flush with cash, in Fay Devlin, a construction-business magnate.
Lacking Hollywood connections, Fiore turned for help to Marty Ingels, the late comedian and husband of actress Shirley Jones, who managed to secure Fiore and Gotti a meeting with Travolta, who signed on.
Travolta became one of the few constants on the project as the inexperienced producers struggled to put the rest of the elements together. Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) was first set to direct, but departed over what were variously described as scheduling problems and creative differences. Barry Levinson then boarded, bringing his Bugsy screenwriter James Toback to do rewrites. Captain America: The First Avenger’s Joe Johnston followed, the Entourage’s Kevin Connolly finally stepped in to helm the project.
Visiting Cannes in 2011, Fiore announced Al Pacino would join the cast as Gambino crime-family underboss Neil Dellacroce — a role that ultimately went to Stacy Keach. And the producer insisted that Lindsay Lohan would play Gotti Jr.’s wife, Kim — Megan Leonard plays that part in the finished film. And then there was a dust-up with Joe Pesci, who filed a $3 million suit against Fiore Films, claiming his role and salary had been cut after he put on 30 pounds to get into character. (The case was ultimately settled, though the part went to character actor Pruitt Taylor Vince.)
Two years later, in 2013, the project returned to the Cannes market, with a new director in Johnston. Radar Pictures’ Ted Field was among the list of producers, and Relativity Media held U.S. distribution rights. “We’re all looking forward to starting production,” Travolta said of the project, which was then set to begin filming in New York that September.
Instead, the film finally began shooting in 2016 in Cincinnati, with Connolly directing; producers Randall Emmett and George Furla’s Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films partnering with Fiore Films and Highland Film Group; Michael Froch handling much of the on-set producing; and Lionsgate Premiere set to distribute.
But then, with the film in the can, it appeared to hit an 11th hour hitch when Lionsgate dropped it. The producers quickly explained, however, that the decision had been theirs. Insisting that they wanted a bigger release than Lionsgate was planning, the producers, with the help of Sunrider Productions’ Edward Walson, bought the film back from Lionsgate and set a June 15, 2018, U.S. release with indie distributor Vertical Entertainment.
Since then, Walson, music supervisor Richard Glasser and Dennis Rice, who is overseeing marketing and distribution, overhauled the Lionsgate cut, trimming about 10 minutes and adding a score by Pitbull, who also wrote an original song.
Gotti was unveiled during the Cannes Film Festival. While it was not part of the official festival lineup, it screened at the festival’s Palais, with Travolta, who later conducted a master class at the festival, on hand.
June 16, 11:15 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses and Rotten Tomatoes audience rating.
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