Although the big story coming out of this past weekend was the record-breaking performance of Incredibles 2 at the box office, another new release is making news, but probably not for the reasons those involved with it might have hoped. The new biopic Gotti, starring John Travolta as the notorious crime boss John Gotti, is currently sitting at an ignominious 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. That score may only be calculated from 26 reviews, but it still reveals Gotti to be a critical bomb. This drubbing must have come as something of a shock for two-time Oscar nominee John Travolta, as a new report says that the actor thought Gotti would be an awards contender.
According to The Hollywood Reporter's sources, John Travolta worked tirelessly to promote Gotti because he seriously believed that his performance as the mafia boss would put him in the conversation as a major player come awards season. This was a passion project years in the making for the actor, and he even joined social media for the first time to promote it. In fact, John Travolta worked to get the film a full-fledged theatrical release versus a dual release on VOD to allow for a heavy awards campaign. So it had to be quite the stinging blow when Gotti was savaged by critics, almost certainly dashing any hopes of recognition come awards time.
On the surface, you can see why John Travolta thought Gotti had awards potential. It has all the makings of a contender. It is a crime drama and a biopic, both genres that the Academy and other bodies are more enthusiastic about and have no problem giving awards to each year. Gotti also chronicles the life of an infamous American gangster, complete with family drama and courtroom intrigue; all material ripe for powerful storytelling, and thus awards consideration.
As for John Travolta himself, he probably saw his portrayal of John Gotti, with makeup and all, as the kind of transformative performance to play a larger than life historical figure that critics and award voters eat up and lavish with praise and gold statues. And John Travolta has recently received awards consideration for his portrayal of Robert Shapiro in American Crime Story, so he probably felt that he was on top of his game and on track for a Travoltaissance. But in this instance, the whole was less than the sum of its parts and despite having some hallmarks of an awards contender, Gotti couldn't even make it to the ring.
Although less than ideal, a poor critical response to a film isn't always a death sentence at the box office. Sometimes movies are immune to critical response and find a receptive public regardless, however that does not appear to be the case with Gotti, at least not as far as the box office is concerned. According to The Wrap, Gotti earned just $1.67 million on 503 screens this weekend. While not a total flop based on the low theater count, Gotti would have had to make around $3 million opening weekend to be viewed as a successful debut. On the bright side, the audience scores for Gotti, for whatever they are worth, are much more positive, although they won't help John Travolta win any awards.