‘Gotti’ review: John Travolta can’t save this pile of garbage of a film

This “Gotti” biopic has a famously tumultuous history, filled with stops and starts over the course of some eight years.It’s …

‘Gotti’

Directed by Kevin Connolly

Starring John Travolta, Spencer Rocco Lofranco, Kelly Preston

Rated R

This “Gotti” biopic has a famously tumultuous history, filled with stops and starts over the course of some eight years.

It’s had everyone from Joe Pesci to Lindsay Lohan attached at one point or another.

In theory, then, a considerable amount of effort has been expended on the thing by a lot of people, for a long time. The back story managed to generate enough anticipation for the film to land a special Cannes Film Festival screening earlier this year.

Yet for some reason the finished project feels like it was dashed off in a couple weeks as a cheapie, basement-level production with the same amount of care and attention to detail that you’d expect to encounter in a movie made by amateurs playing dress-up in the backyard.

Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. Perhaps expectations should have been tempered the instant the picture went into production under the directorial auspices of Kevin Connolly (best known for playing Eric Murphy on the toxic cesspool that was “Entourage”).

Factor in the heavy involvement of John Gotti Jr., and an overarching agenda of serving as an apologia for the Gottis and all that they represent, and it’s a sure bet you weren’t going to get a work of honest introspection. The movie’s basic notion of the Gottis can be described as this: community men, good husbands and fathers, who were unfairly railroaded by the government.

But even the most liberally tempered expectations cannot explain the extent and scope of the disaster here, the sheer lack of basic cinematic competence.

Rushing at the sort of pace that would make Justify envious, the picture hurls its way through every major event in the elder Gotti’s (John Travolta) rise and fall in the Gambino family. It zips through decades of history so quickly that there’s no time allowed to consider the consequences or impact of anything that’s happening. The film is simply a flurry of conversations about power and respect and the other familiar old platitudes of the genre, carried out in dimly lit, grim settings and across Cincinnati city streets that poorly double for New York, while Travolta ages 20 years.

It’s apparent that Connolly is taking every bit of his inspiration from having watched “Goodfellas” too many times. The fifth-rate Martin Scorsese impression ranges from loads of obvious music cues — “Walk Like an Egyptian” accompanies one of the Dapper Don’s court victories — to the boneheaded narration crafted by screenwriters Leo Rossi and Lem Dobbs, that adds nothing in the way of context or meaning to the passing parade of gibberish.

Travolta remains a wonderful actor, despite a history of being unusually susceptible to making this sort of bottom-feeding junk, and he gives the performance his all. The accent, the hair, the demeanor, the very New Yawk qualities of it are all carefully assembled and deserving of something better than this pile of garbage.

Robert Levin