×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Gotti

It's too bad "Gotti" doesn't delve more deeply into the relationship between the swaggering gangster and the city with which he shared such a weirdly cozy symbiosis. This HBO film is a marvelously cast and technically efficient biopic. But Steve Shagan's screenplay is as tight-lipped about Gotti's character as the man himself was, and the locations -- it was shot mostly in Toronto -- lack much in the way of Gotham flavor. Result is a fairly standard-issue gangster flick with abundant use of the F-word and a moderate body count of 11 (no "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" this), two of them non-Mob-related.

With:
Cast: Armand Assante, Anthony Quinn, William Forsythe, Richard S. Sarafian, Vincent Pastore, Robert Miranda, Frank Vincent, Marc Lawrence, Al Waxman, Frank Pelligrino, Silvio Oliviero, Aidan Devine, Alberta Watson, Billy Otis, Tony De Santis, Vlasta Vrana , Nigel Bennett, Don Dickinson. Before he was sentenced to life in prison four years ago, mobster John Gotti had become a uniquely New York kind of folk hero, celebrated for his fashion sense, his media savvy and his ability to throw a terrific street party -- all traits the local citizenry hold dear. When he beat his first federal racketeering rap in 1987, he earned a hero's welcome and a name change, transmogrifying from the Dapper Don to the Teflon Don in the tabloid papers and local newscasts.

It’s too bad “Gotti” doesn’t delve more deeply into the relationship between the swaggering gangster and the city with which he shared such a weirdly cozy symbiosis. This HBO film is a marvelously cast and technically efficient biopic. But Steve Shagan’s screenplay is as tight-lipped about Gotti’s character as the man himself was, and the locations — it was shot mostly in Toronto — lack much in the way of Gotham flavor. Result is a fairly standard-issue gangster flick with abundant use of the F-word and a moderate body count of 11 (no “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” this), two of them non-Mob-related.

“Gotti” opens with Armand Assante’s Don preparing to enter the maximum security prison in Illinois, and quickly flashes back to the early ’70s and his rise through the Gambino family from small change to capo. His mentor, Neil Dellacroce (Anthony Quinn), is underboss to the fading Carlo Gambino (Marc Lawrence). When Gambino asks Gotti to murder someone as a personal favor, he’s also forced to bring on the job a lieutenant of Paul Castellano (Richard Sarafian, several steps up the food chain from the sleazebag he played last month in Showtime’s “Miami Hustle”). The coked-up assistant freaks during the hit; Gotti has him killed — a violation of Mafia rules — and ends up spending three years in jail.

“John, you cannot whack a man on somebody else’s crew,” Dellacroce tells Gotti.

His enmity with Castellano thus, er, cemented, Gotti goes nuts when Gambino names Castellano, not Dellacroce, as his successor. Eventually, Gotti has Castellano killed outside a midtown steak house, in one of the most sensational and brazen gangland murders since the heyday of Al Capone. Gotti ascends to the top, and Salvatore Gravano (William Forsythe) — aka Sammy the Bull, another made-for-the-tabs monicker — rises with him as underboss. It’s Sammy, of course , who will eventually prove Gotti’s undoing, singing for the feds in return for a few years in jail and a life in the witness protection program, despite having admitted to at least 19 brutal slayings.

Though Assante, Quinn and Forsythe have an actor’s field day, “Gotti” neither glorifies nor vilifies its subject, which is a problem. The film veers from any representation of what exactly it is that organized crime does. Neither does it go beyond making the case that Gotti was a daring and ruthless aggressor, willing to break firmly held rules to get to the top. The role of his wife, Vicky (Alberta Watson), is laughably, if inevitably, underwritten. There’s a far greater tie between man and mentor than man and wife, which is surely accurate but results in a certain redundancy, not to mention men kissing each other’s cheeks and foreheads a lot.

Effective in supporting performances are Vincent Pastore as Gotti’s screw-up friend Angelo Ruggiero, Frank Vincent as another captain, and Al Waxman as lawyer Bruce Cutler. The movie has a few longueurs, but basically it’s smoothly paced by director Robert Harmon. And if nothing else, Shagan reveals an interesting take on his antihero’s sense of perspective. Gotti argues — not ineffectively — that his crimes pale beside those of Richard Nixon in the ’70s and arbitrageurs in the ’80s. “You know why the people in this city love me?” he asks. “I’m beating the same system now that’s fucking them every day.” For a while, at any rate.

Gotti

Production: Pictures. Executive producer, Gary Lucchesi; producer, David Coatsworth; director, Robert Harmon; writer, Steve Shagan.

Crew: Music, Mark Isham; camera, Alar Kivilo; production designer, Barbara Dunphy; art director, Rocco Matteo; costumes, David Lee; casting, Avavy Kaufman/Diane Kerbel.

With: Cast: Armand Assante, Anthony Quinn, William Forsythe, Richard S. Sarafian, Vincent Pastore, Robert Miranda, Frank Vincent, Marc Lawrence, Al Waxman, Frank Pelligrino, Silvio Oliviero, Aidan Devine, Alberta Watson, Billy Otis, Tony De Santis, Vlasta Vrana , Nigel Bennett, Don Dickinson. Before he was sentenced to life in prison four years ago, mobster John Gotti had become a uniquely New York kind of folk hero, celebrated for his fashion sense, his media savvy and his ability to throw a terrific street party -- all traits the local citizenry hold dear. When he beat his first federal racketeering rap in 1987, he earned a hero's welcome and a name change, transmogrifying from the Dapper Don to the Teflon Don in the tabloid papers and local newscasts.

More Film

  • David Picker dead

    David Picker, Studio Chief Who Acquired James Bond Novels for UA, Dies at 87

    David Picker, who headed United Artists, Paramount and Columbia’s motion picture divisions and was known for forging relationships with groundbreaking filmmakers and material, died Saturday in New York. He was 87 and had been suffering from colon cancer. MGM tweeted, “We are saddened to hear that a member of the United Artists family has passed [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content