Review of the Killing of John lennon

Review of The Killing of John lennon written and directed by Andrew Piddington
Rating ***

It's always interesting when you get a chance to see two films on the same subject. In this case I'm referring to the films Chapter 27 and The Killing of John Lennon. Both films are about the killing of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman. Both films use the same source material. The most recent example of two films on the same subject were the films Capote and Infamous. Clint Eastwood also made two movies on the same subject – the battle of Iwo Jima - but they were from different perspectives.

The film Chapter 27 focuses primarily on the three days leading up to the killing. The Killing of John Lennon starts three months before the killing and also covers events after the murder. Both films have their strong points. To get a real sense for what happen, you might want to watch both films.

Of the two films, I give the edge to The Killing of John Lennon. One of my criticisms of Chapter 27 was that there wasn't enough background information on Chapman. I didn't even realize that he was married. I'm sure I knew it at the time from the media coverage, but that was nearly thirty years ago. Knowing a little about his mother and father and his upbringing goes a long way towards understanding his motivation.

Both films use a lot of voice over narration. And this is a story that absolutely requires it, since he couldn't openly talk about his plan to kill Lennon. So why did he kill Lennon? The primary reason stated in this film is because he felt that Lennon was a phony. Lennon sang about a world without possessions while at the same time he had more possessions than most. The other factors such as paranoia and the desire for fame and recognition are only tangentially referenced. His misguided worship of the book The Catcher in The Rye is covered in both films. The Killing of John Lennon takes the connection a little further. What's missing in this film is the conflict Chapman faced when he actually met Lennon. Chapman found Lennon to be kind and gracious after getting his autograph and came close to changing his mind.

The lead actor, Jonas Ball, does an excellent job of portraying the troubled Chapman. He didn't put on weight like Jared Leto did for Chapter 27. Instead he wears baggy clothes. The effect is the same. He doesn't have to look like Chapman to give you a sense of who Chapman was, or at least his interpretation of Chapman's character.

Around the same time I watched these two films there was a news report about the real Mark David Chapman who had come up for parole. His appearance hasn't changed much since that day in December 1980 when he was arrested. He still wears the same over-sized glasses from the 80s. He was denied parole for the sixth time. My guess is that he will make parole at the next hearing in 2010. He will have served thirty years, with most of that time in solitary confinement.

The DVD didn't contain any bonus material, which is a shame. Besides the entertainment value, anyone interested in films and film making will find something of value by seeing both films. Actors will also find value in comparing the performances in the two films.

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