The Killing of John Lennon (2006)



(director/writer: Andrew Piddington; cinematographer: Roger Eaton; editor: Tony Palmer; music: Martin Kiszko/Makana; cast: Jonas Ball (Mark Chapman), Krisha Fairchild (Chapman’s mom), Jane Fox (Prostitute), Mie Omori (Gloria Chapman), Robert Kirk (Detective John Sullivan); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rakha Singh; IFC Films; 2006-UK)

“A well-researched docudrama on the twisted mind of the 25-year-old Mark David Chapman, the nobody who killed John Lennon.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-directorAndrew Piddington (“The Fall”/”Shuttlecock”) shoots a well-researched docudrama on the twisted mind of the 25-year-old Mark David Chapman, the nobody who killed John Lennon outside his Central Park West 72nd Street Dakota apartment in New York in 1980. Piddington in his re-enactment of the crime employs throughout a voiceover narrated by Chapman portrayer Jonas Ball, that uses selected pieces from Chapman’s detailed diary, interviews, depositions and court transcripts. This use of the source material is essential to the film’s ability to clearly tell us what the deranged killer was up to as a celebrity stalker, as accuracy, style and an outstanding performance by Ball are its unfailing assets. Where it bogs down is in being too long, repeating too many scenes that serve no purpose and after hearing everything from the killer’s POV we are none the wiser in understanding him. The filmmaker takes no chances delving deeper and with more questions into the narcissistic Chapman’s mental breakdown, so after all is said and done we are back at the starting point in understanding what made him suddenly snap.

Chapman is pictured as a creep living in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he’s married to a timid Japanese-American wife, has a dysfunctional relationship with his promiscuous mother (she left her hometown of Decatur, Georgia to be with him in Hawaii), an estranged relationship with his cold and cruel father, and is unhappy working at a security job. After reading JD Salinger’s novel, ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ Chapman identifies with the angst-ridden alienated hero Holden Caulfield and believes he’s destined to become the catcher in the rye of his generation, the real-life HC saving all the children from the perils and phonies of the world by traveling to New York City and killing John Lennon. He thereby buys a gun and comes to NYC, but returns because Lennon is out of town and the movie “Ordinary People” message about love temporarily relieved his rage to kill. He states “My rage was defeated and the volcano was capped.” But 16 days later, he again leaves Hawaii and this time will succeed in killing Lennon. We are to understand that he chooses the Beatle because he didn’t like his photos in a photograph book he saw at the library and deemed him a phony, who preaches about having no possessions while he’s filthy rich with many possessions. Chapman will later state after his arrest “I was Mr. Nobody till I killed the biggest somebody on earth.”

Piddington, in this well-made film, shows Chapman as a loner with a bomb-ticking inside his head, who is an angry and resentful man with deep mental problems and a lust for fame even if it’s on someone else’s back. By using Chapman’s own words to describe his state of mind, the film gives you an authentic look at the killer but it’s only surface deep material on the gooey character and it felt bad funny having such an uninteresting loser as Chapman (serving a 20-year-to-life sentence in Attica state prison) be the protagonist and spending an uncomfortable 114 minutes in his creepy company.