Gotti (1996 TV Movie)
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It's definitely no Godfather, but if you're looking for something new...give it a shot
The movie's rhythm seems to bog down in a couple of places. It detracts from the general tempo--but patience rewards with good action once again. The violence is not overplayed, in fact it is subdued. Anyone who is aware of the history of real Mafia perpetrators, such as Roy DeMeo, can vouch. Is Mafia life idealized here, thus making it attractive? I guess the viewer has to decide. I have watched it at least ten times and my favorite parts are the Intro and the Castellano hit, but there's more to like in between!
The film features great acting by Armando Assante, William Forsythe, and Anthony Quinn as the head of the Gambino family. Quinn owns the scenes he is in. Assante makes the Teflon Don charming but also so vain that little slights set him off. Forsythe is electric and the air of menace around him is practically a character in and of itself.
As always, it takes good writing to bring an exciting story to the screen and so writers Gene Mustain, Jerry Capeci, and Steve Shagan deserve credit for showing the excesses of the life of the Teflon Don and for not stinting on the brutality of life as a mafioso. The wealth and power that mob bosses get ultimately does them in as they start to believe their own legends. Mustain, Capeci, and Shagan show the hard work but also the violence that brings them down hard.
Gotti ruled NYC for a while and as a kid at the time I heard his name a lot. This film is a good primer for learning about the life and times of John Gotti.
The "lectures" he gives on mob policy come off a bit stagey for somebody who was a truly scary tough-guy. The guy who plays "Big Paul" is totally miscast. Big Paul was tall and tried to be refined, at least in public. He was not 400 pounds!!! (Potential Spoilers within) The movie starts out fairly true to all accounts of the story of Gotti, but has some mistakes as far as the rankings and duties of some of the key players within the Gambino family. It also suffers from the task of having to condense nearly 25 years worth of stuff into two hours. With all of these quibbles, you might be inclined to think I did not enjoy the film. On the contrary, I think it is VERY watchable and quite entertaining. There are many high points to GOTTI, even if they came at the expense of "bending the facts" a bit. If you haven't done your homework, this story is pretty convincing.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The made for TV movie Gotti hits all the noted incidents in the Gotti legend. Based in part in the research and writings of Jerry Capeci who used to report on gangland activities in the Daily News the script gives us a three dimensional portrait of Gotti.
It used to fascinate me that when Joey Gallo was killed and later Joe Columbo was shot and lived in a coma for about 7 years it would resonate once and for all that publicity seeking gangsters don't really make out in the end. It makes them a more visible target to shoot at.
I like very much what William Forsythe did with the part of Sammy the Bull Gravano, Gotti's underboss and total opposite of him in personality. Forsythe who was Al Capone in the revived Untouchables series does the gangster persona very well.
In fact this film also boasts the casting of a pair of old Hollywood oldtimers. Marc Lawrence did gangster parts in old Hollywood plays the aging Carlo Gambino and Anthony Quinn who did a few of those parts as well in his varied career plays Gotti patron Neil Dellacroce the Gambino underboss. Quinn has some great scenes with Assante trying to warn him of the error of his ways.
This film should have gotten the theatrical release it was originally intended.
There seemed to be a Victoria Falls of mafia movies. It was a genre unto itself -- not quite just another gangster movie, not a shoot-'em-up action thriller, and not a throwaway glance at human character and morality.
You could almost get the impression that it was all a fictional universe, like the "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" franchises. But, though the movies were stretched a bit and some of them purported to be fiction, the organization, its norms and milieu, were real enough. There was a clam bar on Kenmore in New York's Little Italy we used to patronize regularly, Little Charlie's. One crowded night, there were no tables available and Uncle Flory inquired about those two empty tables in he back, already set for dinner. "Er, those tables are always empty so they'll be available in case any of the important, erm, 'businessmen' of the community happen to drop in." Who WOULDN'T kill for that kind of rispetto?
John Gotti was known as the "Dapper Don". He wore million-dollar sharkskin suits you could see your reflection in, ten billion-dollar Rolex watches that were made of platinum inside and out -- all worn at the same time on the same wrist, and mahogany colored shoes made of unborn loggerhead turtle skin. His car was forty feet long, powered by the same engine that kept a Boeing 707 aloft, and made of tiled Kevlar painted international orange. The vanity license plate read GOTTI GOT IT, YOU AIN'T. His cigars were hand rolled by virgins in Bora Bora. And his twenty pinkie rings were REALLY expensive. He never avoided self display either, usually wearing a modest grin for the cameras. Just another fella.
He rose pretty quickly to head the Gambino family in New York before his underboss, Sammy ("the moral nihilist") Gravano, ratted him out. Gotti went to prison for life and Gravano, a multi-murderer, after spending three years in the slams, went into the witness protection agency.
Armand Assante does very well by the role of Gotti. The mannerisms are right, but sometimes he talks too fast. Sometimes he speaks more quickly than I can think. Really, there were little outbursts, imprecations, in which the phonemes swept past my apperceptive apparatus like a sudden gust of wind. He's a good actor, capable of carrying a dumb comedy as well as a drama or even the myth of Odysseus with conviction.
Anthony Quinn, ancient and creaking, does his best, as does Marc Lawrence, who has been a gangster for many years, going back to "The Asphalt Jungle." I've always like William Forsythe, who has the eyes of some kind of reptilian chimera, but is a good solid reliable supporting player. He was my co-star in the inestimably poetic ex-con masterpiece, "Weeds." I took a liking to him and coached him through his more difficult scenes.
You know, though, the MBAs who greenlight these projects may have a problem. What is there that is still unsaid about the Mafia? Next up: movies about the making of movies about the Mafia.
The movie paints Gotti as an old style gangster who refuses to play by the rules, which is what brings him to the top and then brings him crashing back down. The movie rolls along well until the Castellano hit, but as Gotti rises to the top of his family, some cracks in the plot begin to appear.
Perhaps due to being spoiled by the drawn out plots of the Sopranos, I found the dissension that breaks up the family in the second half to be rushed. The characters turn on each other because that's how it went in real life. On the other hand, we are dealing with multiple murderers, so asking for deep reasons for them to kill each other may be asking too much.
Unlike the protagonists in other mob movies, I did not find myself liking Gotti too much. The media image of Gotti was of a smiling gangster, and you could see a lot of his charisma. Assante does not give off the same sort of charisma, so my attitude towards him was rather lukewarm at best. I'm not sure who would have made a better Gotti, but to me the casting of the title role in this one ultimately relegated this movie to mediocrity.
Overall a decent flick, and its fun to see the regular crew of mob actors assemble for yet another go, but it adds nothing new to the genre.