Gotti Blu-ray Review
Movies reviewSRP: £9.99
Gotti Film Review
John Travolta delivers his best performance in years in this undercooked look at 'The Teflon Don'.After a decade in production, the end result of Gotti is pretty underwhelming. With three other much bigger profile Directors involved at one stage or another, including Barry Levinson, as well as a bunch of other actors - including Al Pacino and, in an infamous lawsuit, Joe Pesci - it's a miracle the film ever actual got shot.
The subject matter is there - the story of one of the most famous crime bosses in American history - but handling it is another matter entirely, and relatively inexperienced director Kevin Connolly (on his third feature, having largely handled lighter material thus far) struggles to get a good angle, finding little help from an equally inexperienced editor and turning in a patchwork biography that doesn't satisfy as either gritty fact or glossy fiction.
Indeed it's interesting that the film features a number of real video clips from the time, with members of the public giving soundbites on their reflections on John Gotti - even these brief quotes could have been better explored in the movie because there was scant evidence of what made him such a widely revered (and feared) man, ruling the New York mob back in the day.
John Gotti appears to be a great candidate for a powerful biopic, but this isn't it.
Travolta is the only saving grace, really, committing to the project as if it were his last shot at glory - or perhaps just out of professionalism - and turning in a performance that manages to just about rise about the disjointed editing, fractured storytelling and insubstantial characterisations. There's some support from the cast, but not in all corners, with the likes of Pruitt Taylor Vince (Identity, Deadwood), Stacy Keach (Bourne Legacy, Sin City 2), and even Travolta's own wife Kelly Preston, but they generally struggle even harder with the undercooked characters because, as supporting players, they have less meat to work with. It's really Travolta's baby, with what feels like the entire budget spent on some extremely good makeup, as we follows a non-linear path that sees his younger years rising up in the ranks, his early terms in prison, his seasoned time as a gangster, and his later years.
Interestingly, it doesn't sound like this was initially the film that they had planned - with reason behind the original working subtitle In the Shadow of my Father still evident in the films extended epilogue, where the weaknesses really show, and make you realise that the build-up was basically an embellished montage reconfigured to suit Travolta's enthusiasm for the role.
John Gotti appears to be a great candidate for a powerful biopic, but this isn't it, and likely no one will do him better 'justice' than Abel Ferrara in the fabulously fictional King of New York where Christopher Walken's lead character even has an entire speech fashioned from Gotti wiretaps. Connolly could have perhaps done with watching that movie first before turning his hand to this.
Gotti Blu-ray PictureGotti comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original limited theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. It's a limited budget feature where, as aforementioned, the most impressive production element is the makeup, but the presentation does a decent enough job to elevate the film above straight-to-video fodder.
A solid video presentation that does a decent job with the material.
Detail is great for the most part, picking up on finer liner, weathered visages, greying hair, the textures of suits and the environmental nuances; it's obviously slightly softer in the earlier sequences, to allow 'young' Travolta to stand out a little bit less but, to be honest, it's barely perceptible, and Travolta is made to look convincing at both ends of his age spectrum. The colour scheme has some richer tones, occasionally embracing the glitz of the ostensibly glamorous gangster life, but it's hardly popping with vibrancy, with black levels the least attractive element, rounding out a solid but hardly noteworthy video presentation that does a decent job with the material but doesn't exactly stand out.
Gotti Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has a little punch to it, but sometimes this can be a little incongruous given the material, with more punchy songs and beats designed to give it some vibrancy, sometimes at the expense of setting a suitable period.
A solid but hardly demo accompaniment.
Dialogue remains prioritised across the frontal array, clearly defined throughout the piece, whilst effects involve a few gunshots - although, perhaps reflective of the era, they aren't always all that punchy - with some more explosive moments coming infrequently, and otherwise nominal atmospherics to bring the piece to life, most notably during the bigger gatherings and parties. The score, beyond some of the less well chosen song tracks (it closes with Pitbull) suits the piece, and attempts some gravitas, even when the material doesn't achieve it. It's a solid but hardly demo accompaniment.
Gotti Blu-ray ExtrasJust a brief Featurette.
Gotti Blu-ray VerdictGotti isn't an arduous watch, but it isn't a very rewarding one either.
Only really worth watching for John Travolta, giving a late career high performance and embracing what could have been a defining role in a poorly put-together biography of the colourful New York gangster, Gotti isn't an arduous watch, but it isn't a very rewarding one either.
The UK Blu-ray release at least affords it solid video and audio, leaving this a decent enough release for fans to pick up.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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