Chapter 27 (2008): John Lennon Killer, Mark David Chapman

Sundance Film Fest 2008 (Premieres)— Jarrett Schaefer’s “Chapter 27” is a failed attempt to probe the inner workings of the troubled mind of Mark David Chapman, who on December 8 shocked the world by murdering the beloved Beatles John Lennon, then 40, outside the Dakota, his New York apartment building.

Most of the publicity for this shallow, disappointing feature, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, revolves about Jared Leto, following in the footsteps on Method actors like Robert De Niro, and how he gained over 60 pounds to look and play credibly the insane killer. But truth to tell, though bearing physical resemblance to the killer, Leto (who’s also credited as a producer) is not compelling.

In sections, this skeleton of a movie feels like a one-man show because it has no charactersor ideas or insights, for that matter. The gifted Lindsay Lohan plays the thankless role of a fan named Jude.

The writer would like us to believe that Chapman’s motives were based on delusion, fueled by an obsession with the fictional character Holden Caulfield and his similar misadventures in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. In other words, how Chapman, an anonymous, 25-year old, mentally unstable, socially awkward Beatles fan, fluctuated between idealizing Lennon and being overcome with a desire to kill him in cold blood.

“Chapter 27” takes its title from the idea that through his actions in New York, Chapman was attempting to “write” his own additional, 27th chapter to “Catcher in the Rye,” which ends with chapter 26. Stretched to the limits, the thin narrative unfolds as a semi-dramatic account of Chapman’s New York “adventure,” and the events of the three fateful days leading up to the tragic shooting that has devastated the entire world.

As you may know, Chapman is incarcerated in Attica Prison on a guilty plea. Aside from a Larry King interview in 1992, he has not spoken with the media. However, Chapman did reveal the mechanics of his unravelling during those fateful days in New York City, to crime journalist Jack Jones. The interviews were published in 1992 as “Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman,” a book of Chapman’s recollections of his act of violence, which reportedly served as source material or at leats inspiration for this film’s text.

We get intimations of Chapman’s conduct as a maladjusted man whose restless mind thrashes about between paranoia, sociopathic lying and delusion, summed up in such superficial comments and cheap Freudian observations as “I’m too vulnerable for a world full of pain and lies,” and “Everyone is cracked and broken. You have to find something to fix you, to give you what you need, to make you whole again.”

Flying in from his Hawaii home, the creepily awkward Chapman installs himself in a YMCA, then at the Sheraton, spending most of his time hanging out in front of the fabled Dakota building hoping to get an autograph from resident Lennon. Since he carries a handgun, he presumably had a darker agenda from the start.

To get close to the action, Chapman lied to cab drivers, identifying himself as the Beatles’ sound engineer. We observe as he argues with a paparazzi photographer named Paul (Judah Friedlander), and misbehaves with Jude (Lindsay Lohan), a young fan he meets outside the Dakota, which are among the film’s weakest scenes.

The overall impression is of a pretentious film, made in the shadow of Scorsese’s masterpiece, “Taxi Driver” and its many imitators in its efforts to describe and understand the psychoses bubbling below the surface of a man whose grasp on reality deteriorates into a misguided rage. In its current shape, “Chapter 27” lacks poignancy and basically has no reason to existnot as a feature.

Cast

Mark David Chapman (Jared Leto)
Jude (Lindsay Lohan)
Paul (Judah Friedlander)

Credits

A Peace Arch Entertainment Group presentation of an Artina Films production.
Produced by Bob Salerno, Naomi Despres, Alexandra Milchan.
Executive producers, Jared Leto, Rick Chad, Gilbert Alloul, John Flock, Gary Hosam, Lewin Webb.
Directed by Jarrett Schaefer.
Screenplay, Schaefer, inspired by the book “Let Me Take You Down” by Jack Jones.
Camera: Tom Richmond.
Editors: Jim Makiej, Andrew Hafitz.
Music: Anthony Marnelli; music supervisor.
Tracy McKnight.
Production designer: Kalina Ivanov.
Art director: Randall Richards.
Set decorator: Amanda Carrol.
Costume designer: Ane Crabtree.
Sound: Rob Getty, Alec St. John.

Running time: 85 Minutes.