Dir/Writer: Jarrett Schaefer. 100 minutes. US.
Pointless and confusingly acted by a purposely hefty Jared Leto, this self-indulgent portrait of an insane Mark David Chapman in the three days before he assassinated John Lennon lacks insight or drama. Lindsay Lohan's supporting role as an excitable Lennon fan who befriends Chapman is fine for what it is but is no reason to see the otherwise-dreary undertaking.
If a far superior similar kind of movie, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, could do only $709,000 in US release despite an excellent screenplay and a mesmerizing performance by Sean Penn as a man going so crazy he wants to kill the President, this would appear to have no hope. (Nixon did $2.8m internationally, where an audience less skittish about the subject matter went for the performance.)
And comparisons to Taxi Driver, which vividly created a sick New York that reinforced its fictional character's troubled mind, are not apt. In the UK and other English-language territories, the potential audience for this - Lennon fans - will probably be the first to shun it.
It left the Sundance Film Festival, where it was in the Premieres section, without a US distributor and there already is an internet boycott campaign.
Because Chapman seemed to worship Lennon, as well as Boomer hero Holden Caulfield of The Catcher In The Rye (who he sometimes imagined being), it's always been a mystery how he could go so wrong. Also a mystery - and a damning statement about American society - is how someone so disturbed could so easily have a gun at his disposal.
But these issues will remain mysteries to anyone seeing Chapter 27, since first-time director/writer Schaefer doesn't address them. He basically picks up the story after Chapman is already thoroughly delusional, arriving in New York for the fateful three days in 1980 that led to his act.
He stays at a YMCA - almost shooting a gay couple in a room next door with the gun he brought - and then wastes his money on a fancy hotel he can't afford. He hectors guards outside the Dakota apartment building about getting Lennon's autograph. And he meets the talkative, girlish Jude (Lohan), who finds him interesting but weird. Schaefer used Jack Jones' book Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman as a source.
The director shoots a lot of close-ups of Leto's Chapman's delivering monologue-like paranoid blathering, presumably under the orders of the actor/executive producer. Maybe it would work as a one-man stage performance designed to be appreciated for the daring choice of impersonation. But on screen it's inert and phoney. And the 60+ pounds Leto gained to look like Chapman adds nothing special to his acting.
Another mistake made is for Leto speak with a lethargic Southern drawl even though the film explains early on Chapman from Hawaii. Trying to figure out that incongruity takes the audience out of both the movie and the performance. Only much later is it explained he's originally from Georgia.
Without Lennon or Beatles music, Chapter 27 relies on Anthony Marinelli's serviceable score. Production values are glum and the story's grim inevitability makes it quite slow at 100 minutes.
Peace Arch Entertainment Group
Peace Arch Entertainment Group