Gotti: Structurally Messy, Poorly Written Biopic, One of Travolta’s (and Year’s) Worst Films Ever

John Travolta’s long gestating Gotti, a biopic about the late mobster John Gotti, hits theaters today, and has already earned a rare distinction–zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review site.

As of noon, the film had collected just 13 reviews and all 13 are considered “rotten.”

Wikipedia’s list of films with a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes includes his 1983 film, Staying Alive, and his 1993 film, Look Who’s Talking Now.

 

 

On the Metacritic review site, which measures critics’ judgments with a numerical grade, Gotti, based on five reviews, has 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 to $2 million during its first three days.

Film with 44 Producers

Since first being announced in 2011, the project has gone through a quartet of directors. It has 44 producers, executive producers and co-producers; and 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.

Keya Morgan, an executive producer on the film that played a role in buying rights back from Lionsgate, promises the wait will be worth it. “It’s a masterpiece. It’s one of the best mob movies I’ve seen in years,” he told reporters.

The saga began more than seven years ago when John Gotti Jr. turned down an 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, 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 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, with, finally, Entourage’s Kevin Connolly stepping in to helm the project.

Visiting Cannes in 2011, Fiore announced Al Pacino would join the cast as Gambino crime family underboss Neil Dellacroce — that role ultimately went to Stacy Keach.

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 dustup 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 among the list of producers and Relativity Media holding U.S. distribution rights. “We’re all looking forward to starting production,” Travolta said of the project, then set to begin filming in New York that September.

The film finally began shooting in 2016 in Cincinnati, with Connolly directing; producers Randall Emmett and George Furla’s Emmet/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 the film hit an eleventh-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 U.S. release with indie distributor Vertical Entertainment.

Since then, Walson; music supervisor Richard Glasser; and Dennis Rice, who’s overseeing marketing and distribution, overhauled the Lionsgate cut, trimming about 10 minutes and adding a score by Pitbull, who’s also written an original song.

Gotti was finally shown in public at the 2018 Cannes Film Fes, but it was not part of the official festival lineup.

Instead, it screened at the festival’s Palais, with Travolta and wife in attendance, and the actor, who is more popular in France than  in the US, later conducting a masterclass at the festival.

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