Here's what you need to know: Gotti is awful, but it's also a potentially great bad movie, the type of film that's best consumed with a group of friends late at night or stumbled upon on cable at 4am. Like Travolta's two other bad movie classics -- the ill-advised Saturday Night Fever sequel Staying Alive and the Scientology sci-fi epic Battlefield Earth -- Gotti vibrates on its own inept yet oddly compelling frequency. It lulls you into a sense of complacency with long, boring stretches about backroom mafia dealings and family feuds before startling you back to consciousness with baffling creative decisions. Why are so many ancillary characters introduced with text-on-screen only to disappear for most of the runtime? How come the movie jumps so rapidly from year to year in telling Gotti's story? Why does New York look so much like Cincinnati? (Answer: It is Cincinnati.)
The movie opens with Gotti addressing the camera in a move that's clearly supposed to remind viewers of Ray Liotta breaking the fourth wall at the end of Goodfellas. "Let me tell you something," says Gotti before going on to share unique insights like "New York City is the greatest city in the world" and "This life ends one of two ways: Dead or in jail." The version of Gotti that we see in this movie is a chatty, mischievous tough guy. Though he's shown carrying out a hit early in the movie, brutally murdering a man in a bar with a quick shot to the head, the script, which was penned by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi, isn't exactly obsessed with Gotti's illegal activities. Many crimes are papered over with archival news footage and newspaper clippings that just reveal how little certain actors resemble their real-life counterparts.
Instead, Gotti is more focused on the man's family life, particularly his relationship with his long-suffering wife Victoria Gotti (Travolta's wife Kelly Preston) and his aspiring-boss son John Gotti Jr. (relative newcomer Spencer Lofranco). The film itself was inspired by Gotti Jr.'s memoir Shadow of My Father, and Gotti Jr. has been part of the movie's promotional push, so it's unsurprising that the younger Gotti gets presented in a mostly positive light, particularly in the film's closing moments.
What's even more surprising is how much affection the film has for Gotti himself: In one hilarious scene, we see Gotti in his role as a BBQ-hosting, cop-belittling fireworks enthusiast. He may have run a crime syndicate, but, really, his passion was bottle rockets. The movie suggests he was a good host, like the Barefoot Contessa of the five boroughs.