John Travolta's new movie Gotti has a rough Rotten Tomatoes fate: After its first weekend at the box office, the movie has a flat 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie, which was directed by Entourage's Kevin Connolly, charts the rise and fall of mobster John Gotti (played by John Travolta) over three decades. Sounds like a good, crowd-pleasing movie, right? Not so much.
Gotti premiered at Cannes but, per Deadline, only a few critics received admittance to the film. It got the chance to debut in theaters via MoviePass and Vertical Entertainment, which partnered up to distribute the film. This weekend, critics slaughtered the film.
A sampling of reviews:
"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." — amNewYork
And all of this for a movie that took eight years to plod to theaters. In 2010, Fiore Films acquired the rights to Gotti's life. Over the interceding eight years, the film went through four directors, landing eventually on Connolly in 2016. Early on, Joe Pesci signed on to play Angelo Ruggiero, but production let him go in 2011, after he'd gained 30 pounds for the role. (He sued Fiore Films for his trouble.) At one point, Lindsay Lohan joined the fun. In December 2017, just before its planned release date, Lionsgate sold the film back to the producers. According to Travolta, the movie's stalwart main actor, production "begged" Lionsgate to sell back the film so that it could have a wider release.
"All these reports are saying the studio ‘dropped’ Gotti and John Travolta, that’s 100 percent false,” Keya Morgan, the executive producer of the film, told Vulture at the time. “The studio never dropped it! Lionsgate said, ‘We want this movie. It has Oscar buzz.’ We had to beg them for it.”
Safe to say, the movie does not currently have Oscar buzz. In its first weekend, the movie made $1.6 million at the box office. Per Deadline, MoviePass, the subscription service that gives unlimited admission to movies, allegedly accounted for 40% of those sales. Because MoviePass is also a distributor, this looks fishy. Or, in the words of one independent studio exec who spoke to Deadline: "They're literally buying the tickets to their own movie!"
Not to be deterred, the people behind Gotti are convinced it's doing just fine. "What is shocking to me is that 80% of audience members on Rotten Tomatoes and 4 of 5 of them on Fandango liked the film. Clearly critics are out of touch with the people who actually vote with their pocket books. It makes me wonder if the press and critics don’t want a movie to succeed because they incorrectly think we are glorifying John Gotti," Dennis Rice, the person in charge of marketing the film, told Deadline.
Then, Monday evening, Gotti released an ad from its Twitter account — a seeming parody of political ads — encouraging audiences to see the movie despite critical reception.
"Who would you trust more: yourself or a troll behind a keyboard?" the ad asks. You hit the mob, the mob hits back, I guess. Watch the full ad, below.