The Killing of John Lennon
Review by Jack Foley
“I WAS a nobody until I killed the biggest somebody on Earth,” proclaims Mark Chapman in Andrew Piddington’s chilling dramatization of The Killing of John Lennon.
But while the film offers a compelling and frequently fascinating insight into the mind of a celebrity-obsessed assassin, it’s also a worrying experience for two reasons: the ease with which Chapman was able to slay his target and the amount of time devoted to the depiction of such a personality.
I’m not sure whether a whole movie should be devoted to such a criminal, no matter how psychologically unhinged, and irrespective of the fact that it never seeks to condone his actions or sympathise with his instability or upbringing.
That said, Jonas Bell gives a startling performance as Chapman, tapping into the paranoid and delusional mindset of someone who turned on a former idol for apparently failing to live up to the lyrics of one of his biggest hits, Imagine.
Chapman was a security guard from Hawaii who came to believe that the murder of Lennon was something he was destined to execute, having been inspired by the message of JD Salinger’s novel, The Catcher In The Rye. The ensuing film examines the weeks leading up to his fateful journey, beginning in Hawaii and offering an insight into his relationships with his distant mother and innocent wife.
As Chapman, Bell utters lines taken verbatim from his journals and pronouncements, as well as from witness evidence provided as a result of the investigation into the crime. And it’s an attention to detail that makes the film all the more chilling and authentic.
But while there’s certainly plenty of morbid curiosity to be found in examining the twisted psychology of a celebrity-obsessed killer, there’s also a sense that Piddington has become a little too caught up in Chapman’s story and could do with having stepped back a bit.
Very little insight is provided into what Chapman’s family really thought of him, while the frequent use of flashy editing or slow motion dream shots of the killer in New York hint at a sensationalist approach that sits uncomfortably with the rest of the film.
The murder itself is frighteningly recreated and the aftermath is fascinating (particularly the restrained approach adopted by the police), but The Killing of John Lennon is a film that ultimately leaves you feeling extremely cold and more than a little bitter that a man who deprived the world of one of its richest talents could now get a movie of his own.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD Release: March 31, 2008