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Gotti Reviews

Originally shown on HBO in 1996 and released to home video in 1997, GOTTI is a questionable account of the rise and fall of John Gotti, the New York crime-family head who broke with too many traditions. Average viewers will be put off by the profusion of names and events, while gangland buffs will find too many questionable recreations of events to take the film seriously. In 1973 John Gotti (Armand Assante), a soldier in the Gambino crime family, is honored to be asked by family head Carlo Gambino (Marc Lawrence) to kill the man who killed his nephew. The plan goes awry and Gotti and his lifelong friend Angelo Ruggiero (Vincent Pastore) spend 18 months in prison, where Gotti develops a reputation as a leader. When Gambino dies, Gotti and others are shocked to learn that his successor will be not Neil Dellacroce (Anthony Quinn), Gotti's mentor, but Paul Castellano (Richard C. Sarafian). Despite the Cosa Nostra tradition of unswerving loyalty, Gotti resents Castellano's business-like methods and failure to stand up to the Columbo family as they move in on Gotti's turf (hijacking stolen cargo from JFK airport). By 1984, so many in the mob are so unhappy with Castellano's failure to spread the wealth that when Gotti and Sammy Gravano (William Forsythe) have him killed, Gotti is named his successor. Dubbed "the dapper Don" by the New York press for his stylish dress, Gotti welcomes the public spotlight as much as his predecessors shunned it. Although he is tried several times on various charges, he beats one case by intimidating a witness and another by bribing a juror. When the FBI discovers the secret apartment where Gotti discusses mob business, they bug it and obtain enough information to bring him to trial. A conviction is assured when Gravano, Gotti's underboss, decides to cooperate with the investigation. Gotti is sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. GOTTI is, at best, of questionable validity as a docudrama. Given the nature of the subject, it's impossible to verify who did what to whom, but too many events depicted here openly contradict other reports. The script tries to put the blame for just about everything that went wrong under Gotti's reign on the head of Sammy Gravano, who proves to be an easy choice for scapegoat since he gave evidence at the trials of Gotti and many other mobsters. At the same time, many of Gotti's traits are downplayed: his excessive gambling and vanity, for example, are only alluded to. He is shown to be a caring family man, and even chastises his crew for making racist remarks! As played by the well-cast Armand Assante, Gotti is so whitewashed that viewers have to pay particularly careful attention to figure out just what criminal activity he is involved in. GOTTI seems to have no particular point of view, wholly missing the irony of a mob boss who courted (and gained) public attention as a hero for the Reagan era. (Profanity, violence, adult situations.)