We now take a break from our non-stop “writing about fictional Presidents” coverage for some breaking, dare we say, topical news. We normally don’t write about things “as they happen” because we’ve had to “cut back on staff when bourbon prices started going up” and “prefer to spend our Tuesdays day drinking” but this story caught our eye, and we had to weigh in.
Last night, the Official Twitter account posted a 16 second video defending itself against it’s comical 0% Rotten Tomatoes score (as of the posting of this article). “Audiences loved Gotti but critics don’t want you to see it…The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself!” the Tweet reads, and the video, complete with chants of “Gotti! Gotti” continues its assault, demanding, “Audiences loved Gotti. Critics put out the hit. Who would you trust more? Yourself or a troll behind a keyboard.”
This is, objectively, hilarious, for a couple of reasons. First of all, by all accounts, this is a Very Bad movie. Pitbull was in charge of the soundtrack, John Travolta is doing his “weird mask-face from American Crime Story” thing, and it tries weirdly hard to make John Gotti, a dude who killed people as part of his regular job, into a sort of sympathetic figure. These are all weird things for a movie, even excluding the fact that it was largely funded by Movie Pass, that company that lets you see a movie every day in the theater for just $10 a month and yet is somehow hemorrhaging cash like Mr. Monopoly with the Ebola virus.
But none of that is the reason why we’re writing this article. No, we’re writing this article because of the film’s assertion that, “Audiences loved Gotti.” Did they? A cursory glance on Rotten Tomatoes shows that, yes, they did. It’s 0% Rotten Tomatoes score comes with a 76% Audience Score. Now, that’s down from 78% last night, as we suspect the weird campaign they launched has led to some mild backlash on that front, but still, that’s a very respectable score.
But…let’s see what the audience members are saying with their ratings, shall we?
Folks, this is some bleak shit. Two of those users have already had their accounts removed, Michael L, the person who thinks that Gotti (Gotti!) is easily one of the 3 best Mafia movies “ecver” made literally created his account to post a 5 star review of the movie, and oh dear, look at Gemma M, who is essentially broadcasting “I got paid like $5 by Movie pass to post a 5-star review on Rotten Tomatoes for this movie.”
A vast majority of the positive reviews come from users who have already deleted their accounts, but those that are still active look like this.
This is all over the Audience section of Gotti‘s Rotten Tomatoes page. Users who created a profile just this month (and, if we had to wager a guess, within the last few days) to post their first and only review, a glowing, typo-riddled 5-star review of the magnum opus that is Gotti which, as we all know, is “the movie to see…… ??”
Another common trend with these reviews is their instance that the critics are doing it wrong, complete with a forced, canned line that we frankly would not be surprised to see in an actual commercial for this movie. We can hear the voice over now. “‘A mob hit,’ says Rotten Tomatoes user Joshua S., who we totally did not pay to say this.”
Okay, so a few things. First of all, the dude who claims “best movie ever being born into the mob I have to agree,” who is that dude? We want to meet that dude. He put the effort in posting a profile pic, but his account has already been deleted. Second, “FYI All these critics have been labeled suppressive” is a weird and scary thing for a bot/troll to post (that account has also since been deleted. In fact, none of these are active accounts anymore). And finally, you’ll see Christopher M there, blasting the critics but also “only” giving the movie a 3.5-star rating. Don’t let that fool you, his account was a burner as well. It seems that whoever is behind the campaign to try to lift Gotti‘s respectability by spamming Rotten Tomatoes with dozens of positive audience reviews has been a bit sneaky about it. A flux of just 5-star reviews is questionable. But you can make it seem a bit more realistic by putting some positive, but not 5-star positive, reviews out there too. Unfortunately, whoever’s trying to lift up Gotti hasn’t exactly subtle with their 4-star reviews.
That is poetry. We want to print that out as a banner and hang it on our wall.
It’s truly fascinating to watch this happen in real time. Here we have a movie that is sure to bomb, pretty much dead on arrival with no critical support, which was supposed to justify the entire money-losing premise for Movie Pass, a company that’s great for the cinephiles watching dozens of movies for cheap but is a bit unsustainable in a Capitalist economy. We can’t overstate how much Movie Pass has riding on this movie being successful. Their whole approach to their business is that they’ll lose money on the whole “free movie every day” but then they can push their user base into seeing movies they finance, thus making that film more popular, and making them money. But you can see the panic in their bold marketing strategy, telling people “don’t believe the trolls” when they literally have trolls arriving en mass to plant false positive reviews.
Now, we’re not saying that Movie Pass, or the marketing team who were stuck with the Herculean task of making people want to spend two hours with John Travolta as Gotti, is behind this surge of burner accounts posting comically fake reviews, but they’re at least seizing on it. We’re not even saying that all of these were paid for (though, come on, that “4/5 could have been longer” better have gotten paid for that majesty). If we wanted to wildly speculate and put ourselves on some blacklist somewhere, this is something we could see Scientology doing to help out their boy Johnny T.
Now Buck W. is 100% a person who was either paid or instructed to create a Rotten tomatoes account to post a positive review of that movie, but he at least put effort into covering his tracks. After creating his page one day ago, he listed his location (Beverly Hills), his hometown (Stony Brook, New York) his favorite movie (Interiors…k) and then fleshed out his Gotti review with four mostly-one-word 5 star reviews (21 Grams was “Magnificent”, The Place Beyond The Pines was “Powerful”, Blue Valentine was “Magnificent”, etc). But that’s just to cover a trail, and pretty sloppily at that.
With all that being said, there is one pervasive thing going on here, which has become emblematic at the blow back towards the sway of critics, and specifically, critics on Rotten Tomatoes over the past few years. Some of these reviews are clearly by people who want critics to look bad for hating on a movie that is actually pretty good. (For the record, Gotti is not actually good.) These are the people still mad that The Last Jedi was 90% positive last year, and while we can understand the frustration you can feel when mainstream opinion differs from your strongly held beliefs, “The critics are conspiring against the major directorial debut of the dude who played E on Entourage” is a weird hill to die on.
So what is the real story behind Gotti‘s desperate Hail Mary ad campaign? Honestly, it’s a lot of things. People are definitely being paid or at least encouraged to create accounts just to post positive reviews and vanish. Currently, of the 5- and 4-star reviews, we would estimate that about 60-80% of them are from accounts that no longer exist, and the majority of those that are still active were created in June of 2018. That’s suspicious.
But what’s less suspicious and more worrisome is how many of these people are out going after the very concept of critics. Somehow, it seems tied to the toxic fanboy culture that literally launched a campaign to bomb the audience score for The Last Jedi, with the overarching view that “these critics don’t know movies the way that we do. They’re either elitist or don’t understand the lore behind this movie, and either way, we want them to look wrong.”
Studios capitalize on this populist mindset when their film fizzles with critics. Bright, which was huge for Netflix in every way except for its critical reception (btw, the movie wasn’t bad but it definitely wasn’t good or subtle or a movie you feel the need to re-watch) was an example of the “snobby Rotten Tomatoes” critics “not getting it.” Netflix points to the discrepancy between the 26% critics score and the 85% audience score and says, “We are giving the people what they want.”
But when the audience score system is so easy (and hilarious) to manipulate, why shouldn’t we trust “the trolls behind their keyboard” who are, you know, paid to write about movies when the audience that’s supposed to represent “us” is actually made up of trolls behind their own keyboards as well? At least the critics have a vetting process.
Oh, and by the way, the guy who gave Gotti 4-stars because it wasn’t long enough? He has one other review. And it is actually the best bad review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi we have ever seen.
Okay someone needs to hire this guy, his glorious reviews are wasted on the audience section.