The Teflon Don, John Gotti, the infamous New York crime boss, a man whose designer suits, impeccably styled hair, and audacious confidence turned him into a media darling. He had a level of cockiness that could put even the most self-assured folks to shame. With not one, not two, but three courtroom acquittals under his belt.
The 1980s wouldn’t have been the same without his flashy lifestyle, and he was such a fixture in the news and tabloids that even Time Magazine featured an Andy Warhol portrait of him on its cover. It’s not every day that showbiz luminaries like David Bowie, Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rourke, John Amos (who simply admired his swagger), and Brooke Shields (who, in a jaw-dropping twist, reportedly gave the godfather her number) flocked to his side. Yes, Gotti was quite the national celebrity, and Netflix Get Gotti gives us the inside scoop on this larger-than-life figure.
Sebastian Smith’s three-part documentary Get Gotti, released on October 24. It portrays John Gotti as a mob boss of a new breed — one who saw himself as the Hollywood A-lister. From signing autographs for fans to basking in the media spotlight and shamelessly displaying his wealth and power, he deliberately fashioned himself as a public figure.
As per the Netflix true-crime docuseries, this dual role was both the linchpin of his initial rise to power within the Gambino clan and the catalyst for his ultimate downfall. By seeking the limelight so eagerly, Gotti not only drew unprecedented attention but also placed an enormous target on his back. This, in turn, unified America’s disparate law enforcement agencies, pulling the once-secretive la Cosa Nostra out of the shadows and into the harsh glare of public scrutiny, a move from which it couldn’t hope to escape unscathed.
John Gotti As A Magnetic Villain
The Netflix Get Gotti documentary dances between John Gotti’s life story and the relentless pursuit to bring him to justice. In the gritty battleground of New York City, the Organized Crime Task Force and the FBI found themselves at odds, both hungry to bring down the most notorious gangster of the era. Their cat-and-mouse games often collided as they staked out Gotti’s favourite haunts and resorted to elaborate tricks to bug his offices.
Amid the investigation, law enforcement had to decipher hours of rather mundane recordings featuring individuals with thick New York accents discussing crime in veiled terms. The documentary also provides a glimpse into the Mob’s inner workings. It highlights the generational divide, with old-school mobsters refusing to dabble in the drug trade, while younger members saw it as a golden opportunity for wealth.
In 1985, John Gotti masterminded a game-changing event in his criminal career. He orchestrated the audacious hit on Paul Castellano, the reigning boss of the Gambino family. This bold move resembled a political assassination, leaving both his loyal associates and fierce adversaries utterly stunned. Enter U.S. Assistant Attorney Diane Giacalone, who declares they have a fresh angle on Gotti, and this time, they’re certain he will face the bars. But, as with all things Gotti, it remains to be seen if the end of his reign is truly at hand.
How did John Gotti die?
In 1992, the law finally managed to land solid charges against Gotti. A litany of offences, including racketeering, tax evasion, extortion, illegal gambling, loansharking, involvement in five murders, and conspiracy to commit murder, sealed Gotti’s fate. These convictions condemned him to a life sentence in prison with no possibility of parole.
Gotti’s story took a tragic turn as he later succumbed to throat cancer at the age of 61, while incarcerated at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. This came four years after his initial diagnosis.
Netflix Get Gotti adopts a visually flashy but somewhat cluttered style, with a penchant for elevating its interview subjects, even if they come with their share of problems. The editing harks back to the rapid pace of 20th-century tabloid TV. Given that Gotti’s life is a vast topic to condense into just over two hours, the series isn’t aiming for an in-depth exploration. Instead, it plays out more like a lightweight overview, carefully stitching together the key moments through the words of significant figures.
The end result is modestly entertaining, but Netflix Get Gotti never quite manages to treat its subject matter with the seriousness it perhaps deserves, failing to infuse it with substantial narrative weight.