Gotti by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi
In spite of the rather negative reception – actually this is more than an euphemism, it is an oxymoron – Gotti is not such an awful film, if we ignore the artificial - annoying at times – performance of Spencer Rocco Lofranco, who has too much to do for a motion picture, given his yet limited abilities.
John Travolta is good in the leading role of John Gotti Sr., although he is far from the flamboyant, glorious, mesmerizing roles he has left for the history of cinema, such as the phenomenal, if vicious, Vincent Vega.
John Gotti is the ultimate mobster, although there is a positive side to him, paling obviously when placed in balance with his cruelty, viciousness, murdering, sadistic side of his psychopathic character.
A psychopath is a man who has no emotions, but he is able to identify, speculate and use to his advantage, the feelings of other people, competitors, sometimes even comrades, friends and family.
The motion picture uses flash backs, we have an old negative hero talking to his son, John Gotti Jr – portrayed without sparkle and much talent by Spencer Rocco Lofranco – and speaking about his cancer, the torment he suffers and the past.
Junior has decided he has had enough and talks to his father about accepting a shorter prison term, that would bring him Closure, would stop the prosecution from harassing him with multiple, continuous, never ending trials.
The Godfather is flabbergasted by the idea of “Closure” and the audience sees moments from the past, where the father is rigidly, ridiculously and savagely opposed to the idea of any of his children dressed for Halloween as cops…
Nobody in my family will ever dress like a cop, talk like a cop….you understand and the he threatens his wife
Very concerned about the plans of his son, who was only five at the time; the mafia king asks Junior what he wants to be when he grows up…
A baseball player…
In fact, John Gotti Junior would become a “mad man”, joining the organization later, when he has to take the special oath, mix blood with another member of the crime syndicate, hear what they feel about devotion, the code, what happens to those who sleep with the wife of a crime syndicate member.
Finally, the most important, last rule refers to rats – informers for the police – that the Mafiosi hate and they emphasize that they kill the rats – there would be a number that are tortured and then killed in the film.
After this ceremony, the Don, who waits outside the initiation room, embraces his son, who is now a soldier, under his command and says that he is so proud of you, contrary to what other mob leaders felt – some – Michael Corleone in the Godfather II – would insist that their descendants would join a legitimate business.
The Senior Gotti has risen to prominence within the Gambino crime family, pursuing the top position, the alpha male role for quite some time, under the guidance of Neil Dellacroce – portrayed by Stacy Keach.
Indeed, the scenes where Dellacroce guides the younger Gotti remind one of the aforementioned Godfather, wherein before he dies, Don Corleone explains the thinking of the rivals, what they would say, the signs to watch for, who the traitor would be – the one who proposes a meeting with the enemies – what to do under the circumstances, with the brilliant, if ferocious new Don, Michael Corleone, eliminating his adversaries while he is attending the funeral of his father.
Except for this and some other similarities, there is little to compare, in terms of value, this rather forgettable feature, with the quintessential Godfather, perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be with the recent Loving Pablo, which has another crime king at the center.
Loving Pablo is about Escobar, the Columbian drug lord who has managed to terrorize a whole country, with his sicarios, assassins, bombs and gruesome torture, corruption, threats and over two billion dollars of wealth accumulated by selling huge quantities of cocaine in America – at one point, a truck blocks the traffic on a Florida highway, to allow a plane to land there and then distribute tones of the drug to awaiting dealers.
Pablo Escobar seems to be more vicious – if that is possible – than Gotti, who loved fame, known as the Dapper Don, with a flamboyant life style, evasion from justice, an image of a saintly man, within a community that looked at the “security” he had brought on the streets.
Given that they killed each other and not ordinary people, many ignorant, dumb locals have attacked the police and the courtroom, when the leader of the Gambino family would be finally convicted for a minimum of five life sentences, for extortion, murders, racketeering and other counts – indeed, he is found guilty on all counts.
That only happens alas after many failed attempts, the nefarious crime lord is acquitted several times before justice reaches him.
A major flaw in the plot seems to be the attempt to present John Gotti Jr. as a redeemed, saved character, if not a saint, victim of his childhood, his father’s terrible influence and other aspects outside his control – although misfortune played a role, it does not feel that Junior was an innocent man, on the contrary.