Review: 'Gotti' a jumbled tribute to crime boss

Biopic on the "Teflon Don" looks and feels like a TV movie

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Size up a pair of cement shoes. "Gotti" sleeps with the fishes. 

Kelly Preston (left) and John Travolta (right) star in "Gotti."

The biopic on the notorious New York crime boss is an incoherent mess that feels like its script was shredded in an effort to destroy evidence and later taped back together on deadline. And it wastes a pretty good performance from John Travolta in the lead role, who plays the mafia maestro from the early '70s until his 2002 death.

"Gotti" tries too hard to cram too much information into a small space, and you come away learning almost nothing about the man, other than the filmmakers feel he was a pretty stand-up guy. The film is bookended by scenes of Travolta-as-Gotti speaking directly to the camera, from beyond the grave, in his thick whassamattawhichyou? dialect. It then makes the curious decision to mix in footage of the real life Gotti, along with real news reports about his frequent trials and brushes with the law, bouncing back and forth like it's playing pinball with the space-time continuum. 

The focus of the story, aside from Gotti's greatest hits, as it were, is largely on his relationship with his son, John Gotti Jr. (Spencer Lofranco), who follows in his father's footsteps, but eventually leaves mafia life behind. Director Kevin Connolly (he played E on "Entourage"), working from a script by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi, wants the audience to root for Gotti Jr., and paints him as a sympathetic figure who beat the law.  

Its questionable perspective aside, "Gotti" also stiffs because its soundtrack is full of boneheaded music cues; "Silent Night" is used to score a Christmastime mob hit; Duran Duran's "Come Undone" plays during a raid of John Jr.'s home, and a 2012 Pitbull hit plays during a 1985 block party. Meanwhile, real life scenes of mourners at Gotti's funeral parade show community members saying how much Gotti will be missed because of all the good he did for the community. All criminals should hope for such a loving tribute.

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Rated R: for strong violence and pervasive language

Running time: 110 minutes