I love "Gotti." Well, I love everything ABOUT the film - although not necessarily the film itself, which I have not seen and probably won't see until it gets quietly added to Netflix four months from now. But from everything that's happening AROUND the film, I can tell it's something special - not just a bad movie, but the BEST WORST MOVIE. "Bad movies" are a dime a dozen and not worth thinking about - but movies THIS ridiculous and THIS bad....they're worth noticing.
I should back up a second - what IS Gotti? There's a very good chance most people have never even HEARD of the film, despite it JUST getting a major nationwide theatrical release. Here are the important things to know about it:
- It's a film about infamous mafia boss John Gotti
- It stars John Travolta
- It was directed by E from Entourage (Kevin Connelly)
- It was budgeted at $10m
- It was originally supposed to be released about 6 months ago
- It made $1.7m in its opening weekend (aka "insanely terrible")
It was a movie about John Gotti...that treats John Gotti like a GOOD GUY
Dialogue I assume is in the film
Here's the thing: NO ONE really likes John Gotti - not even people in (or formerly in) the mafia. Pretty much everything about him worked against the carefully constructed criminal enterprise that was "La Cosa Nostra" - he loved media attention and going on TV, he loved taunting law enforcement as though he were untouchable, he bad-mouthed his own crew and allies, and he even broke certain unbreakable codes (the way he BECAME boss of the Gambino crime family was by putting out a hit on the former boss - and the rule is that you do NOT whack a boss without the approval of the other Families). But it was mostly his flamboyant behavior that drew more and more attention to the mafia, which in turn brought more scrutiny from law enforcement and public pressure to deal with the problem.
Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso was quoted in his biography, Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss, that "what John Gotti did was the beginning of the end of Cosa Nostra."
And for everyone else? He was a criminal, a blowhard, a drug dealer, and....pretty much every other bad thing you can imagine. He was an asshole hated by everyone around him. The REASON he was finally caught is because one of his own men was shown taped conversations the FBI recorded of Gotti ripping on him behind his back - so he flipped government witness and helped bring Gotti down. And the movie ends with a series of real life testimonials from some of the few people who DID think he was a positive influence on his community and the world, trying to re-frame Gotti as a man of the people who was just trying to give everyone a better life.
It is bombing HARD
Gotti has not been a stellar performer at the box office so far - in its debut weekend, it grossed about $1.7m, which put it outside of the top 10 performers (Book Club, a film aimed towards older women, outperformed it in its 5th weekend at the box office). That's pretty ridiculously bad, even if the theater-count WAS lower than the rest of the films in the top 10 (it debuted on a bit more than 500 screens).
But the more relevant bit is that the film was acquired and distributed by MoviePass - which puts it in a unique spot, because about 40% of the people who saw the film over the weekend saw it through MoviePass. And given MoviePass's revenue structure, that means they effectively LOST MONEY on 40% of the people who saw the film...here's how:
- When you see a film through MoviePass, they effectively just pay for your ticket (their longterm profit plan involves hoping you just see less movies overall but keep your subscription active - so you're paying them fees, but they don't have to buy tickets)
- When you buy a ticket, the revenue is split - a percentage to the movie theater, and a percentage to the distributor. Typically this nets out to around 50/50 on opening weekends for most movies.
- So - MoviePass was paying a movie theater and themselves for 40% of the people who came to see Gotti. And since paying yourself nets out to nothing, the real material part is that they paid movie theaters 50% of the ticket price for each person who saw the film through MoviePass.
Call me crazy, but that does NOT sound like a great business strategy - although it seems like some of the calculus is to show the service's utility to movie theater chains so it can negotiate bulk discounted rates on tickets down the line, which isn't TOO bad of an idea. That is, if the movies they were pushing this strategy with had ANY redeeming value to audiences.
It has 0% on RottenTomatoes
Know how many films EVER MADE have a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes? Where literally not a single critic can recommend the film? Less than 40. But Gotti - a film starring John Travolta, who has been nominated for Oscars and (for a while) was considered a prestige film actor - is now in that rare club (as of this writing, at least - who knows, maybe one critic will come out of the woodwork and say it's passable!). That's pretty incredible - and what's MORE incredible is how the film is RESPONDING to its critical savaging.
They're using the critical thumping as a positive - saying critics "have put out a hit on Gotti." That they are trying to STOP audiences from seeing this important and very good film:
Audiences loved Gotti but critics don't want you to see it... The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself! pic.twitter.com/K6a9jAO4UH-- Gotti Film (@Gotti_Film) June 19, 2018
Honestly, it's kind of brilliant? I mean, the movie has basically nothing to lose at this point - so why not frame it as "THIS IS A MOVIE OF THE PEOPLE! DON'T LET THOSE CURSED CRITICS WIN!"? Especially in an age where lots and lots of fans DO think movie critics are part of a vast conspiracy to destroy films their corporate bosses don't like.
Better yet, you may have noticed the surprisingly high Audience Score for the film - 75%! That's pretty good! Except, as redditor wunder_3 uncovered, it definitely appears to be an astroturfing campaign by the producers or distributors of the movie:
I went to take a look at the written reviews on RT and of the first 58 reviewers with an available profile, 45 had created their account on June 2018;
Out of these 45, 32 have only reviewed Gotti, 10 reviewed Gotti and another movie (7 times it was American Animals for some reason) and 3 had more than 3 reviews.
Of the remaining 13 accounts 8 looked normal and 5 had created their account in December (TLJ?) so those were probably legit.
To summarize: a bunch of BRAND NEW ACCOUNTS were created to JUST review Gotti positively. And a few also only reviewed one other movie - American Animals, which just so happens to have the SAME DISTRIBUTOR AS GOTTI.
Honestly, there's something incredibly appropriate about the John Gotti movie being this sleazy, underhanded, and sorta dumb in its scheming. I respect it.
And if nothing else, hopefully this can replace Battlefield Earth as the go-to reference for terrible John Travolta movies: