Pros: Leto; creepy story; making-of featurette on DVD
Cons: fairly short
I never realized how delusional Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s murderer, was until I watched Chapter 27, the 2006 movie starring a very husky Jared Leto as Chapman in December 1980. Truth be told I wasn’t even a Beatles’ fan, much less a Lennon fan at that time, and even after becoming one I didn’t look up who Chapman was to find out why he killed the iconic pop singer. I assumed he was some idiot seeking instant fame.
That’s only part of this disturbing, creepy tale. Chapman came to New York from Hawaii, leaving behind a loving wife and mother, just to kill Lennon. He had been obsessed by Lennon and his music, then outraged by “Imagine” and the Beatles’ joke that they were more famous than Jesus. Besides being a “born again” Christian believing in “God”, heaven, hell, and a devil, Chapman was a delusional, directionless, unsympathetic person who believed he was the rebellious character Holden Caulfield of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. He bought another copy of it the day before he shot Lennon, wrote in it as Caulfield that this is his statement, and was reading it as he waited for the cops to arrive after his heinous deed.
Inspired by Jack Jones’ book Let Me Take Him Down: The Story of Mark David Chapman etc., which was inspired by interviews of prisoner Chapman that Jones did, Chapter 27 covers only three days in December 1980 from an objective perspective, showing us how Chapman convinced himself he was going to do this if he was just patient because it was fated that he should. I felt fascinated, disgusted, horrified, and frustrated all at once. Even when Lennon very kindly signed Chapman’s copy of the Double Fantasy album, including the date, just hours before the shooting, the zealous creep wouldn’t be deterred.
The most intriguing reason for watching this 79-minute, R-rated movie, though, is Jared Leto. A longtime vegan he gained forty pounds for the role that he explains in the DVD extras he will never do again. He became very sick, needed to use a wheelchair for walking long distances, and had a miserable time overall. It was a powerful performance you don’t want to miss.
J.P. Shaefer directed the somewhat controversial movie, which he and Leto assure us was made not to upset Lennon fans, but to show their respect for him because people should know why he was killed. Lindsay Lohan, having a small part in the movie as a Lennon fan, echoed this sentiment. Admittedly, though, we are still left with a lot of questions, but the movie does answer some for me. Another character was the photographer who grudgingly became friends with Chapman and took a photo of Lennon signing the record. I saw it online while researching Chapman who is still in prison, up for parole again this year. He’ll probably stay locked up.
If you’re captivated with films that profile creepy, deliberate murderers of famous people, you’ll love Chapter 27. The title, by the way, comes from the grim idea that Chapman’s story is the next chapter in Salinger’s 26-chapter novel. I would be thoroughly devastated if I were the author.