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The Killing of John Lennon Reviews

Using Mark David Chapman's own words taken from testimonies and transcripts, and shooting the actual locations involved, British filmmaker Andrew Piddington coats hard facts with florid stylization to re-create the frenzied weeks leading up to the murder of John Lennon. It's a TAXI DRIVER-inspired odyssey into violence and insanity that runs close to two hours — a long time to be riding shotgun with a madman. Honolulu, Hawaii, October 1980. It's the eve of the Reagan era, and greasy security guard Mark David Chapman (newcomer Jonas Ball) has begun to disintegrate. The son of a promiscuous mother (Krisha Fairchild) who has followed her troubled son to Hawaii from their hometown of Decatur, Georgia, and a cruel and indifferent father, Mark now spends much of his free time away from his wife, Gloria (Mie Omori), prowling the streets in his battered car, frightening random strangers by dialing payphones and flatly intoning "Bang, bang. You're dead" into the receiver, and hanging out at his only sanctuary, the Honolulu public library. It's there in the library stacks where Mark has an important epiphany when he rediscovers J.D. Salinger's classic novel of adolescent discontent, The Catcher in the Rye. As he obsessively rereads the book over and over again, Mark believes he's actually becoming Holden Caulfield, Salinger's alienated protagonist who, like Mark, is sick of all the phonies of the world and even imagines killing a man in a New York City hotel. Mark also comes across a book of photographs and finds a perfect target for his inchoate anxiety and rage: John Lennon, the former Beatle who preaches against materialism while living the luxurious life of a rock god. Conflating these two obsessions, Mark becomes convinced he's destined to become the catcher in the rye of his generation, somehow saving all the children from the perils and phonies of the world by traveling to New York City and killing John Lennon. Piddington closely follows Chapman on his ill-fated sojourn to Manhattan where he prowls the city from the back of one Checker cab after another like one of Travis Bickel's scarier fares, moving from the Waldorf Astoria to a seedy room at the YMCA while he waits for the opportunity to fulfill his destiny. Piddington includes far too many insanity montages — no more mad scenes involving projected Super-8 home movies, please — and though the psychic space Piddington and Ball create is certainly a terrifyingly claustrophobic place to be, it's also stultifying and banal in the way other people's crazed obsessions become after a very short while. (Piddington's attempts to re-create Chapman's external world is undone by the unavoidable fact that he's shooting in present-day New York City, a very different place from the Manhattan in which Lennon was murdered.) Ball bears little resemblance to the real-life Chapman (after gaining 67 pounds for 2008's other Mark David Chapman movie, CHAPTER 27, Jared Leto is a lot closer to the mark) and while impressive, his intense, committed performance also grows tiresome, proving the truth of Lennon's murderer's own words: Mark David Chapman really was an uninteresting nobody until the moment he killed the biggest somebody on earth.