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Film / Gotti (1996)

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Gotti (also known as Gotti: The Rise and Fall of a Real Life Mafia Don) is a 1996 HBO docudrama about the life and criminal career of former Gambino Family mob boss John Gotti, who was arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1992 for numerous criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice, extortion and other offences.

In 1973, John Gotti (Armand Assante) is an up-and-coming captain within the Gambino Crime Family, a mob organization based out of New York City. After a hit personally sanctioned by Don Carlo Gambino results in Gotti having to execute a made man in order to ensure his silence, Gotti runs afoul of Paul Castellano (Richard C. Sarafian), a caporegime in the family. Gambino names Castellano his heir to the family just before dying, over longtime underboss Neil Dellacroce (Anthony Quinn), and causing resentment from Gotti and his crew.


Tensions continue to rise before coming to a head in 1985, when Gotti and Gambino enforcer Sammy "The Bull" Gravano (William Forsythe) stage a daring coup after Dellacroce passes away, assassinating Castellano outside a busy New York steakhouse and installing a new regime — with Gotti at the head of the table. Over the next seven years, Gotti rules the Gambino family with an iron fist, culminating in his arrest after a team of F.B.I. agents successfully bug a private meeting space and catch incriminating evidence. In the ensuing trial, one of Gotti's closest allies makes the decision to turn state's witness...

Originally planned to be a feature film, the project was later converted into a telemovie for HBO after the initial funding was reduced. Despite that challenge, the film went on to become the highest-rated telemovie in HBO's history, and many of its supporting cast members would later appear in The Sopranos, the famed HBO drama that would air three years later, in 1999.


Not to be confused with the 2018 film of the same name.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Near the end of the film, Agent Mouw is shown being on the verge of bursting out laughing at Gotti's bail hearing, as the incriminating FBI recordings are played in court for the first time.
  • Affably Evil: As is befitting of a mob enterprise, most of the main characters display this attitude:
    • Carlo Gambino comes across as a kind grandfather-like type who has civil meetings with his top caporegimes, but in actuality, he is The Chessmaster, and casually deals with the life and death of associates and soldiers without getting angry or raising his voice.
    • While Gotti is shown joking and laughing with reporters and members of the public during his trials, his antics belie the behavior of someone who leads a criminal enterprise that engages in murder and mayhem on a regular basis.
  • Adapted Out: Due to time and material constraints, numerous major incidents that occurred during Gotti's life are never referenced or mentioned within the film, such as his participation in the Lufthansa Heist (a robbery dramatized in Goodfellas), two indictments leveled against him during the 1976-1985 period, his nomination of Joe Armone as underboss after the Castellano hit, the late 80s recognization of the Gambino family and participation in the New York Commission, or the presence of John Gotti Jr. and his initiation into the family in 1988.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Despite his history of murder and death (a fact he even points out for Gotti's benefit), Dellacroce dies in bed with Gotti and his crew near him, and gets a final conversation with his protege where he talks about honor and time slipping by.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Whether D.B. was moving against John or not. A case of Truth in Television, as Sammy Gravano later stated that he was told by Angelo Rugierro that D.B. was moving against Gotti, only to later learn after the hit that Ruggiero was into D.B. for $250,000.
  • Anachronism Stew: A minor example — the shots of the World Trade Center in New York (which were filmed in the mid-90s) have an antenna on top of the North Tower and show a building near the Financial Center that didn't exist in 1973, the time in which the establishing scenes of the film show.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Gotti (and, by extension, the rest of his crew) after the death of his son, Frank, due to a drunk driver.
  • Anti-Villain: Gotti himself, to the point that it was called out in reviews. The film gives a lot of nuance and Pet the Dog moments to him, including A Father to His Men tendencies, respect for mobsters the rest of the family didn't like (Gotti is far more respectful towards Angelo Ruggiero than he was in real life), attempts to let the Favara matter go despite Gravano's objections, and his actual work/responsibilities within the Gambino Family are muddled at best, prompting a much more upbeat portrayal of the character than he was in real-life.
  • Artistic License – History: Now has its own subpage.
  • Asshole Victim: Castellano, in spades. It speaks volumes about his character that nearly every major character in the film talks trash about him behind his back, Gotti plans his execution for a significant period of time, and when Castellano (and his bodyguard) finally dies, no one mourns him. This is also a case of Truth in Television — he was denied the right to a Catholic funeral because of his criminal career.
  • Audience Surrogate: The FBI agents (particularly Mouw) lampshade the most ridiculous elements of the plot during the scenes where it cuts to them eavesdropping on Gotti, including Mouw pointing out the ridiculousness of the police not intervening in the Castellano hit, explaining the difference between the different Italian heritages and commenting on how Gotti's criminal enterprise rivals that of a Fortune 500 company.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Gotti leads the rest of the New York Commission in a salute once he takes the reins of the Gambino Family, shortly after Castellano is assassinated. To note, Gotti gets a standing ovation from the group as he raises his glass in triumph.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is largely adapted from the court notes of Jerry Capeci, a New York reporter who covered much of the inner workings of the Five Families, and served as an executive producer on the project. The subject matter itself is an adaptation of the 1996 book of the same name, Gotti: the Rise and Fall.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Ravenite Social Bar (and, earlier in the film, the [unidentified on-screen] Bergin Hunt and Fish Club) act as home base for Gotti and his crew off-hours. Towards the end of the film, the FBI raids the Ravenite and arrests Gotti, Gravano and DiCascio for numerous charges.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Gravano invokes this once both he and Gotti are locked up in prison near the end, and the former learns just what Gotti was saying about him on the FBI tapes.
    Gravano: When John Gotti wanted someone in the ground, John Gotti called Sammy Gravano. You barked, I bit, remember?
    Gotti: You bit? You pillaged this fuckin' city under my flag, using my name, every step of the way. MY NAME!
  • Being Watched: The film often cuts to a team of F.B.I. agents, led by Mouw and Russo, who are busy running surveillance on Gotti from a neighboring apartment or facility. Towards the end of the film, the team is able to ascertain the location of Gotti's private meeting space (an unused apartment above the bar he frequents), and subsequently wiretap it, leading to them listening in on private conversations Gotti is having with his most trusted associates.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Dellacroce could be mistaken for a polite, quiet older man who doesn't make waves to any normal citizen. This belies that he is a razor-sharp underboss who has no problem committing the Gambino family's dirty work, up to and including the assassination of Gotti himself (had Carlo asked for it).
  • Bookends: Gotti's speech at the beginning of the film (directed towards LoCascio) about the potential fall of the Gambino Family is repeated at the end of the film, just as Gotti is led into a federal prison cell and examines his image in a mirror.
    Gotti: 5-10 years from now, they're gonna wish there was an American Cosa Nostra. 5-10 years from now, they're gonna miss John Gotti.
  • Break the Haughty: The FBI finally catches Gotti dead to rights by the end of the film, via damaging audio recordings that implicate himself and DeCascio and using Loophole Abuse to ensure that Gotti's preferred lawyer can't engage in Jury and Witness Tampering. Gravano deciding to turn state's witness is ultimately the event that finally causes him to realize the charges are serious enough that he may not be able to escape, and by the end of the film, he is left alone in a prison cell, musing about how Cosa Nostra will be lost without him.
  • Brutal Honesty: Dellacroce points out to Gotti that despite his affinity for him, he still follows the Gambino rule and would have whacked him had the decision been made by Carlo:
    Dellacroce: I told Don Carlo you were Like a Son to Me. That touched the old man. He told Paul to give you a pass. But if Don Carlo had said you gotta go, I would've come here today with these two Zips... and you would go.
  • Camera Sniper: Seen from the perspective of the FBI agents running surveillance on Gotti, as they take photos and video of him.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: The Movie. Gotti rises in prominence within the Gambino Family — and has the ego to match, making a larger spectacle of himself as he rises to the level of Boss. To that end, he is shown repeatedly flouting his wealth and power in court, which draws attention from the F.B.I. and makes him an even bigger target.
  • Dare to Be Badass: How Gotti views his imminent takeover of the Gambino Family:
    Gotti: We're gonna be a powerhouse now. Ain't no one ever gonna break this. Like Cosa Nostra ain't seen since (Albert) Anastasia.
    Gravano: Anastasia? Shit, John... this is bigger than killin' the fuckin' President.
    Gotti: Hey... you think I was put on this Earth to make them rich and me poor? We're gonna do a hit now, gonna do a real hit. We're goin' back, yeah... back to some real, in your face Cosa Nostra.
  • Defector from Decadence: Once Gravano realizes that his options are extremely limited and that Gotti had openly talked about having him killed, he turns state's witness and works with the F.B.I. to dismantle the Gambino Family from the inside-out, destroying any chance of Gotti getting free.
  • The Dragon: Gravano, who allies himself with Gotti and plans out the Castellano hit, then serves as his enforcer and trusted confidante for the next seven years.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Gambino and Castellano are shown to live in large, opulent properties, which they bring their caporegimes into on occasion for business meetings. Conversely, Gotti (who lives in a large, yet unremarkable, house) compensates by flouting his wealth in public by wearing expensive suits and ties, partying and hanging out at clubs and touting his reputation for the benefit of the reporters covering the various RICO trials.
  • End of an Era: At the end of the film, Gotti implies that this happened to the American Cosa Nostra as a result of his arrest, reasoning that not having him at the head of the Gambino Family will most likely weaken it permanently.
  • Everybody Smokes: Most (if not all) of the Gambino leadership and associates smoke, with several — including Dellacroce and Ruggiero — eventually succumbing to cancer as a result.
  • Famed in Story: As the events of the film get going, Gotti and Gravano's first meeting with each other (at Don Gambino's) showcases that each of them are aware of the other's fearsome reputation, and regard each other as Not So Different.
  • Fat Bastard: Castellano, who is shown in nearly all his scenes either eating or sitting down for a meal — when he's not making decisions to screw over the underlings working for the Gambino Family. The real-life version of Castellano was not short and overweight — he was 6-foot-2 and comparatively svelte.
  • Friendly Enemy: Gotti comes to respect (if not like) several of the FBI agents trailing him, including Agents Mouw and Russo, going so far as to thank them for giving him intel, even though he understands that he is on their radar.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Angelo Ruggiero, a member of Gotti's crew, is routinely mocked by the rest of the group for his inepitude and inability to safeguard his business dealings, to such an extent that he's nicknamed "Quack Quack" for his tendency to reveal sensitive information. Castellano even suggests having Ruggiero whacked after the latter is caught on an FBI wiretape. Gotti only tolerates him because they were childhood friends, and at one point has a falling-out with him, though they manage to repair their friendship before Ruggiero passes away.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Gotti, who is established as having come from nothing, rises from obscurity in a few short years to take the reins of one of New York's notorious crime families, commits all sorts of illegal and dangerous crimes, and is equally revered (and feared) by almost everyone who knows him. This is discussed late in the film by Armone, who points out that Gotti went from "a cockroach tenement to the cover of Time Magazine".
  • Fun with Acronyms: Invoked in-universe when Gotti is informed of an imminent attempt on his life by the FBI.
    Gotti: You know what FBI stands for, don't you?
    FBI Agent: Why don't you tell me.
    Gotti: Forever Bother the Italians.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: The Succession Crisis is motivated by Gambino picking Castellano (who was more interested in white collar crime than the type of dealings the Family were largely engaged in) over Dellacroce, the long-serving underboss who was next in line for the top role. As time goes on, more and more of Castellano's soldiers and captains, including Gravano, D.B., Gotti, Ruggiero and others, get fed up with Castellano's ignorance towards his profit margins squeezing out crews, and instigate an assassination in order to install Gotti as the new boss.
  • Historical In-Joke: During a meeting with his caporegimes, Castellano mentions that recordings the FBI made of Angelo Ruggiero (that subsequently became public) could jeopardize a deal he is trying to make with "a chicken guy, with the head that looks like a chicken". While not identified directly in the film, the "chicken man" Castellano is referring to is the owner of Perdue Farms, Frank Perdue, who Castellano once had his daughter's boyfriend murdered over because he compared Castellano to the former. Castellano not knowing who Perdue is refers to an unrealized deal both men had where Perdue approached him for help thwarting a unionization drive in 1981.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Sammy Gravano is portrayed as much more greedy and bloodthirsty than in real life. For example, film Sammy volunteers to kill his own brother-in-law, Nicky Scibetta, whereas in real life, Sammy fought tooth and nail against the hit on Nicky, and had vowed to kill Paul Castellano in retaliation for ordering the hit until Frankie De Cicco convinced him otherwise. He was also much more reluctant to kill D.B. as well, only relenting because he was told by Angelo Ruggiero that D.B. was making a move against Gotti.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Gotti's statements about whacking D.B. (and admitting to wanting to whack Sammy) come back to bite him when the FBI plays the incriminating recordings in court. Despite his attempts to dismiss the recordings, Gravano realizes that the government has Gotti dead to rights — and subsequently flips on him.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Joe D'miglia uses one in the scene where he executes Galione on Gotti's orders — in a busy suburban neighborhood, no less.
  • How We Got Here: The film begins with Gotti having a conversation with Frank LoCascio before getting ready to head to maximum security prison in 1992, then flashes back twenty years to show his ascendency (and eventual takeover) within the Gambino crime family.
  • Hypocrite: In spades, given the dog-eat-dog nature of the crime syndicate Gotti belongs to.
    • Don Gambino stresses that the Family doesn't deal in narcotics because it brings too much heat from federal authorities... but he ultimately goes along with Castellano's plan to send Galione (a coke addict) as the shooter on a hit with Gotti, then plays ignorant when Castellano (who is incensed about a made man being whacked) orders Gotti to be killed.
    • Gotti calls out Angelo Ruggiero and another associate of his crew for complaining about their illegal operations not bearing enough money (and subsequently being starved out) while both of them are involved in a drug smuggling scheme they're trying to keep hidden from their bosses.
    • This is also highlighted in a separate conversation with Joe D'miglia and Gotti about Paul's behavior:
      Joe: He's taking drug money from Roy DiMeo. He don't ask where the cash comes from, but he knows, John.
      Gotti: So he's a hypocrite?
      Joe: Yeah.
      Gotti: Is that something new? He's a boss, you get it?
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Dellacroce carries one throughout much of his time in the film, of which the cause isn't directly identified, and Dellacroce refuses to go for treatment due to fearing it would only hasten his condition. In real life, Dellacroce had inoperable lung cancer and died in a Queens hospital at the age of 71.
  • Irony: At a point in the film where he's displaying clear It's All About Me tendencies and dressing in flashy suits and ties, Gotti tells the rest of his crew a joke during a victory party (held after he is acquitted during his second RICO trial) about a bar patron named "Jo Jo" who wears branded apparel, but doesn't want to be recognized by anyone else. This comes shortly before Gotti is informed by his lawyer about a third RICO trial, and before others warn him that he is Tempting Fate by continuing to show off in the press.
  • It's All About Me: Gotti displays this attitude during his trials, to the point of clapping in court during his second trial after an acquittal verdict is read. It even causes other gangsters to begin to resent him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In the same conversation where Castellano ultimately lets slip to D.B., Sammy and others that the Columbo Family had given him the okay to whack Gotti and his crew if needed, Castellano points out that Gotti's antics have resulted in undue attention being placed on the Gambino Family, and chastizes him for wearing expensive suits and getting into pointless fights when he doesn't have to (a concern shared by Joe Armone, who express similar sentiments later in the film, despite his shared complaints about Gotti).
  • Karma Houdini: Unlike most of the other gangsters (who end up assassinated, dying from cancer or being charged with numerous offences), Joe Armone and Sammy Gravano seemingly escape justice. Armone is last shown being semi-retired and running a small coffee shop in New York, while Gravano turns state's witness and seemingly skirts all charges while ratting out Gotti and the rest of the Gambino crew. This is also a case of Artistic Licence — Armone's tenure as underboss for Gotti (from early 1986-mid 1987, when he was arrested and imprisoned) is not adapted into the film, while in Gravano's case, he still served a bare minimum of prison time (less than one year) in exchange for his cooperation in the FBI's case against Gotti and LoCascio.
  • Kick the Dog: Towards the end of the film, any semblance of sympathy towards Gotti (as little as it was to begin with) evaporates once he kicks Gravano, his top lieutenant and underboss of the family, to the curb, and openly suggests that the latter should be assassinated. Gravano, incensed that Gotti wants to make the subsequent RICO case all about him and believing he's going to take the fall, flips and becomes a state witness for the Feds.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Castellano (who has been squeezing out most of the soldiers in the Gambino Family for years due to his policies) finally goes a step too far for Gotti when he refuses to visit the ailing Dellacroce, who is on his deathbed and being watched over by several members of Gotti's crew, and prompts Gotti himself to initiate the hit on Castellano's life.
  • Klingon Promotion: Incensed by the way his crew (and others within the Gambino family) are being squeezed out by Castellano, Gotti and Gravano arrange to have the mob boss and his driver killed outside Sparks Steak House, and quickly cement it with a vote from other members that cements Gotti firmly at the top of the food chain.
  • Like a Son to Me: Dellacroce considers Gotti to be this, and treats him with a level of respect not afforded to other members of the Gambino family. Interestingly, this trope saves Gotti's life after he kills Galione, due to Dellacroce invoking it in order to play on Carlo Gambino's sympathies.
  • Loophole Abuse: Despite Carlo Gambino telling Gotti point-blank that the Family doesn't deal in narcotics trafficking, the regime under Paul Castellano (his successor) tends to unofficially deal in it to shore up the profits caused by Castellano squeezing out profits from the crews. This is highlighted in the scene where Gotti calls out Angelo and another associate for complaining about profits drying up while they're engaged in drug deals on the side — a fact they try to hide from him.
  • The Mentor: Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce, the older and wiser underboss of the Gambino Family, fulfills this role for Gotti, who considers him to be a father figure and is genuinely disappointed when Dellacroce is passed up by Gambino for the role of boss.
  • Motive Decay: Gotti originally sets out to usurp Castellano by telling Gravano that he wants to get back to the kind of "in your face Cosa Nostra" that led previous regimes to be so powerful. Over time, though, the Gambino family becomes less about ruling from the shadows and more about Gotti's personal mission to make a spectacle of himself, which catches the attention of long-time associates like Joe Armone, who calls him out for Tempting Fate. By the time he's arrested and imprisoned, he's resorted to making rants about how the organization would be nowhere without his actions.
  • Motive Rant: Once Gotti and Gravano are locked up in the same cell together, and the latter complains about what Gotti said about him on the F.B.I. tapes, Gotti finally drops the act and gives an epic response implying that everything that has transpired within the Gambino Family over the seven years has been to him, and no one else.
  • Nothing Can Stop Us Now!: Gotti inspires Gravano to help him plan the assassination of Castellano by telling him that they're going to "make a powerhouse" that harkens back to "real, in your face Cosa Nostra." The ensuing assassination finally puts Gotti right in the FBI's crosshairs, and over the next seven years, a combination of Gotti's arrogance during his RICO trials and Gravano deciding to turn on him once he's swept up by the Feds leads the former to be imprisoned for life without parole.
  • Out of Focus: Victoria DiGiorgio Gotti, John's wife, to the point that she largely exists as a prop to react whenever John is arrested or in grief over a situation. None of the real-life Victoria's history, including her fights with Gotti over his work or her depression / near-suicide over the death of her son, are included in the film.
  • Police Are Useless: For much of the film, law enforcement is invisible, with the only consistent presence being the FBI team tracking the Gambino Family, who admit late in the film that they need to step up their efforts against Gotti. This trope is even lampshaded by Agent Mouw when he points out the ridiculousness of the Castellano hit (partially Truth in Television — interviews with Gravano suggest that two cops in the vicinity of Sparks Steak House left a few minutes before the event took place, meaning no one was around to intercede).
    Agent Mouw: (Gotti) whacks out Paul Castellano in the middle of 46th Street. Where the hell are the cops? Now it's some "unsolved homicide".
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Gotti is Red, Gravano is Blue. Gotti is emotional, charismatic, and openly defiant towards both Paul Castellano and the FBI. Gravano is quiet, calculating, and avoids the limelight. Another case of Truth in Television, as Gotti and Gravano butted heads both before and after their arrest over John's obsession with his celebrity status, vs Gravano's insistence that LCN is a secret society.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Notably averted, given the subject matter — during Castellano's confirmation meeting, Joe Armone tells the group that he's decided to retire, and will spend his time managing a small coffee shop in Brooklyn. With the exception of his (requested) appearance during Gotti's Awesome Moment of Crowning, Armone sticks to his word and remains retired, and no one bothers him for the rest of the film. (The actual Joe Armone did not retire — he supported Gotti during the Succession Crisis and acted as his underboss until he was arrested for tax evasion in 1987.)
  • Rule of Symbolism: The end of the film shows Gotti musing over how society will wish he was still heading the Gambino Family (reasoning that their influence will diminish to the point of obscurity over the coming years because he isn't around to lead them) as he stares into the mirror of his prison cell — which shows a distorted, exaggerated caricature of his own face, a nod to his larger-than-life antics.
  • Shown Their Work: The transcripts and circumstances behind the wiretaps that incriminated Gotti are largely taken verbatim from the real-life record.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The score underlining the Castellano assassination scene (the main theme) is oddly upbeat and triumphant, despite backing shots of Castellano and his driver being riddled with bullets while Gotti and Gravano look on dispassionately... before leading into an Awesome Moment of Crowning, where Gotti is officially recognized as the head of the Gambino family as the theme reaches its climax.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Gravano, incensed over complaints about his work and lifestyle directed at him by Gotti on audiotape, and fearing he will be locked up for the rest of his life due to the murder and racketeering charges leveled via the RICO clause, turns on Gotti and becomes a state witness for the Feds, revealing numerous details about the inner workings of the Gambino Family in the process.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Despite being shown directly murdering Scibetta (his own brother-in-law) and indirectly participating in the deaths of Favara, DiBernardo and many others, Gravano is visibly hurt when he learns that Gotti had plotted his death, and calls him out on this when they're moved into a cell together.
  • Tempting Fate: Nearly every member of Gotti's crew gets it at some point: Ruggiero presumes that his house isn't bugged because he "had someone assure him it was safe," Gotti makes a spectacle of himself and gets warned by other mobsters to lower his profile; Castellano presumes that he's untouchable after he refuses to see Dellacroce before his death; and other examples.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Just like the real-life events that inspired it, Castellano and his driver are ambushed outside Sparks Steak House in downtown New York, and pumped full of multiple handgun clips at close range on Gotti and Gravano's orders. Due to the way the scene is edited, they continue pumping bullets into Castellano for a solid 30 seconds before he finally goes down.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When Joe D'miglia chases down and kills Galione after the botched club hit, a group of children and their parents (some seen in the foreground, and some of which are facing the direction of the action) look on with disinterest as D'miglia walks up to and executes him before walking off in a hurry.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Carlo Gambino's deathbed request to have Paul Castellano take over the reins of the Gambino Family instead of Dellacroce ultimately sets off a wave of resentment and eventual Succession Crisis within the gang, leading to Gotti taking over the reins via a violent assassination — and ultimately leading to the Gambino Family's leadership withering over the ensuing years, as Gotti is eventually pursued and nabbed dead-to-rights by the FBI, along with Gravano, who eventually turns state's witness and nearly brings down the whole operation.
  • The Usurper: A combination of factors leads Gotti to conclude that Castellano is unfit for the role of Boss of the Gambino Family, and together with Gravano, D.B. and a collection of other associates within the Family, has Castellano executed so that Gotti can take the reins of the family himself.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Despite being Shown Their Work on a handful of occasions, the film plays very fast and loose with the chronology of Gotti's seven-year tenure as the head of the Gambino Family, and greatly streamlines, removes, or in some cases, adapts out characters and situations to fit the two-hour runtime.
  • Villain Ball: The plot is motivated by each of the three major leaders of the Gambino family (over a 15 year period) making a single bad decision that results in the slow eroding of their organization:
    • Carlo Gambino sanctions a hit to avenge the death of his nephew, but allows Castellano to send a soldier (Joe Galione, a known crack addict) along with Gotti for the job. Despite Gotti's misgivings, Dellacroce tells him to go along with it, but the hit predictably goes bad after the target recognizes Galione, leading Gotti to permanently silence him). As a result, Gotti is nearly killed after Castellano demands retribution, and though Dellacroce successfully lobbies Gambino to spare him, the resulting exchange leads Gotti to be permanently resentful, setting up the Succession Crisis that follows.
    • Castellano makes the mistake of not visiting Dellacroce on his deathbed, thus infuriating Gotti. This, combined with Castellano's poor leadership, causes the leader to have Castellano assassinated and takes the role for himself.
    • Gotti starts Tempting Fate via his court appearances (which is pointed out by Joe Armone, among others) and eventually starts talking at length about various murders in the apartment above his bar, which is subsequently recorded and used as evidence against him by the FBI.
  • Villainous Friendship: Gotti and Gravano, who are seen meeting for the first time at the beginning of the film, go on to share drinks and hanging together later on, and mastermind the plan to assassinate Castellano and seize power for themselves.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Gotti doesn't earn the nickname "The Teflon Don" for nothing, beating several charges against him while snarking alongside journalists and celebrating with the residents in his neighborhood, to such an extent that a couple approaches him at dinner to gush over his antics (and he orders a bottle of champagne for their table in appreciation). The FBI eventually grows tired of his antics.
    Agent Mouw: I can't believe this son of a bitch. Every time he beats a rap, his popularity goes through the roof. He's making us all look like idiots.
  • The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: Gambino names Castellano as the new boss of the family on his deathbed, over the (commonly-requested and expected) choice of Dellacroce, the long-time underboss. This creates a situation where the soldiers in the family begin to openly resent Castellano (who has no practical street experience) for squeezing out their profits in favor of higher kickbacks that have to be paid to him, poorly-made choices during negotiations and thinly-veiled contempt for Gotti and his crew (to say nothing of the real-life Castellano's problems). This leads Gotti to instigate a crew that results in Castellano and his driver/bodyguard being killed and Gotti taking the reins of the family.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Just before his death, Dellacroce begs Gotti not to start a gang war with Castellano, pointing out that if he's "backed into a corner," Gotti isn't going to like what happens.


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