Mark David Chapman (Jared Leto) has travelled to New York from Hawaii to get John Lennon's autograph and "to do something big". He waits outside the Dakota hotel with other hopeful fans longing to glimpse their idol. He strikes up a conversation with a pair of female fans, notably Jude (Lindsay Lohan), with whom it seems a romance might start. On the morning of the 8th he meets the Lennons' nanny who is going to the park with Sean. Later on he encounters John Lennon and gets the singer to sign a copy of the Double Fantasy album. Lennon is on his way to a recording session. Chapman elects to wait for his return.

Over the years there have been many cinematic attempts to get into the mind of disturbed, homicidally inclined individuals: Steve Railsback as Charlie Manson in Helter Skelter is probably the definitive example. Now we have Jared Leto inhabiting Mark David Chapman, the man who took the life of John Lennon on December 8th, 1980.

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This is a case of the actor becoming the subject - Leto has packed on extra weight to resemble Chapman and affects the quiet spaced-out lilt of Chapman's voice. A tour-de-force performance. All the peripheral characters hardly register at all, Lohan is cute but inconsequential both as a screen presence and her effect on the proceedings - although one suspects the marketing machine will try to cash in on her dubious celebrity.

Chapman may not be everyone's definition of a monster, he is intelligent, he functions in society, he is not a loner although introverted, he is married and held a variety of jobs. The dysfunction is there, depressions, obsessions, religious mania, but until that cold December day, nothing could have predicted his behaviour. Chapman is a loser, carrying a chip on his shoulder. You might feel sorry for him, but for his actions. Armed with the school and parental credo "If you set your mind to it – you can do anything" and a .38 revolver, Chapman finds the worst possible way to manifest the American Dream.

Should such a film exist as 'entertainment'? There is always a fascination with the dysfunction of the human condition. The film is more documentary-drama than exploitation fare. There are several vocal groups protesting the movie, but this is no glorification of Chapman, but rather a case study of how a small creep can become even more loathsome in a society in which weapons of minor destruction can be purchased as readily as cigarettes and for that reason it is important.

Reviewed on: 12 Nov 2007
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Chapter 27 packshot
The days leading up to the assassination of John Lennon.
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Darren Amner *1/2

Director: Jarrett Schaefer

Writer: Jarrett Schaefer

Starring: Jared Leto, Lindsay Lohan, Judah Friedlander, Ursula Abbott, George Bryant II, Kevin Cannon, Mark Lindsay Chapman, Melissa Demyan, Jeane Fournier, Molly Griffith, Matthew Humphreys

Year: 2007

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: US, Canada


Sundance 2007

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The Killing Of John Lennon