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Since the release of John Travolta's biopic Gotti on June 15th, the film has been the subject of the kind of Rotten Tomatoes controversy usually reserved for Disney and DC films. The issue arose when Gotti, which had and has a 0% critical score on the Tomatometer, had a contrastingly positive audience score based on a lot of reviews. Then, an ad for Gotti that highlighted this disparity and called critics trolls led to some people on the Internet claiming that the audience scores weren't legit and were all the work of the film's marketing team. The marketing team has since responded, denying that they padded out the reviews and critiquing Rotten Tomatoes, with Dennis Rice, the head of marketing for Gotti saying:
We don't need to contrive anything. What we do have is a very passionate audience in the markets where we promoted. The other thing that's happening is I find it odd that Rotten Tomatoes would only post 26 reviews. When we went to Chicago and had critics review the movie and positively review the movie, they're not putting [those] up there.
Dennis Rice is quite defiant here and adamant that in the markets where Gotti was pushed and audiences actually went out to see it, they liked it. So if you take him at his word, the situation with Gotti is simply that there was a gulf between the tastes of critics and audiences (a common enough occurrence) and that those people who liked the film were passionate enough to leave a positive review for it. Additionally, Dennis Rice's comments to TooFab definitely seem to imply he feels that Rotten Tomatoes is out to get Gotti and is only cherry-picking positive critical reviews, citing critics in Chicago who reviewed the movie favorably that weren't counted.
Rotten Tomatoes has also responded about Gotti's high audience score, saying that all the reviews were left by active accounts and nothing in the company's monitoring indicated any problems. So, that backs up the marketing team's denial that any sort of review padding or dishonest behavior was afoot. In the time since Dennis Rice's statement, the critical reviews for Gotti on the site have actually increased to 33 but none of the additional reviews were positive, so the Tomatometer for Gotti remains at zero. On the audience score side of things, while Gotti once enjoyed a positive audience score of 73%, it has since dropped and is currently at a 58%, which is not considered to be a fresh score, either.
The one thing that is problematic about Dennis Rice's statement is that he is denying any foul play with the audience score and claiming that audiences loved Gotti, while simultaneously questioning Rotten Tomatoes' trustworthiness and agenda with their critical reviews. You would think if Rotten Tomatoes had something against Gotti, it could manipulate the user reviews alongside the perceived critical cherry-picking. So, basically he is saying that this site is above board for the audience score that reflected well upon the film but is shady with the critical reviews that don't. Critics and audiences having a difference of opinion is nothing new. It is entirely possible that like countless other films, Gotti isn't being appreciated in its time by critics, but audiences love it and it will be viewed more favorably in the future.
Ultimately, whether they be critical reviews or audience scores, the only way you'll know if this movie is a unfairly maligned gem or an unwatchable travesty is to see it for yourself. Whether you do that in theaters or wait for it to be free on streaming is up to you. Gotti is in theaters now. For all of the biggest movies releasing in 2018, check out our release schedule.