chapter 27
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84 min.
Release Date
chapter 27

Chapter 27 tells the story of Mark David Chapman, the deranged individual who, on December 8th 1980, shot John Lennon, one of rock ‘n roll’s most potent figures. Chapman is played by Jared Leto (from Fight Club and Requiem for a Dream) in a worthy-if-misguided attempt at credibility. Misguided because Chapman isn’t one iota as interesting as the life he took, and no matter how much Leto tries, he can’t make up for a movie that’s frankly a bore.

Frustrated, enraged rather at the “phoniness” of those around him, particularly Lennon, Chapman circulates about New York City for three days, mostly lingering outside Lennon’s apartment at the Dakota. His behavior is erratic, if not wholly nonsensical. We struggle to understand his obsessions, recounted by Leto’s overlain dialogue, delivered in a soft voice, a sloppy and unidentifiable accent that sounds off somehow. The narration relays the ravings of Chapman’s disturbed existence in hopes, I think, that we’ll better understand the killer and his motives. But when he’s blatantly insane, what is there to understand?

Imagine a whole movie dedicated to the pointless ramblings of an obvious crackpot who, if you have an affinity for The Beatles, you despise. Even if you didn’t care for Lennon or his music, Chapman’s story remains so pointlessly mundane that we struggle to see any ongoing progress. There’s a brief subplot involving another Beatlemaniac named Jude, played by Lindsay Lohan (yes, seriously), who is eventually scared-off by Chapman’s vague allusions and odd behavior. These scenes go nowhere fast. And aside from the constant rambling about J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, a book the killer obsessed over, Chapman does little besides ask strangers out to dinner, lie about false friendships and business connections with former Beatles, and wait… Just as we do, hoping something fascinating will happen. It never does.

Chapman still lives in Attica Correctional Facility, where he’s been denied parole four times since his eligibility in 2001, due largely to Yoko Ono’s opposition to his discharge and the lasting Lennon fans that would surely make Chapman’s free life unpleasant. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and psychosis, among other mental problems, Chapman attempted suicide a number of times before his crime in 1980. Unfortunately, his attempts were unsuccessful. Like John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot Reagan, Chapman saw himself as Holden Caulfield—his own life an extension of The Catcher in the Rye, which, having ended at Chapter 26, explains the title. Salinger’s Caulfield, viewed without consideration of metaphor, has always related to psychos—that they can’t break down the character into more than a summation of what’s on the page suggests that, indeed, they have issues.

Writer-director J.P. Shaefer, his source the novel Let Me Take You Down by Jack Jones, seems to think he’s making Taxi Driver, a version where Travis Bickle actually follows through with his nefarious assassination plot. Disconnected and clearly delusional, Chapman is given too central a role in his own story. Perhaps if we watched him from afar, as opposed to getting inside of his garbled head, the film’s 84-minute running time wouldn’t have felt like an eternity. I can envision a better movie examining Chapman through the eyes of an outside fanatic (not played by Lohan), a sane foundation Chapman could spring from. Alas, the narrative remains pretentious in its wandering state.

And let’s not forget about poor, poor Jared Leto. First, someone conned him into starring in this dribble as Chapman, then they convinced the actor the best way to play the part was to put on 60-some pounds. In the age of fat suits and CGI, Leto attempts a transformation only Robert De Niro (in Raging Bull) and Christian Bale (in The Machinist) have topped. Too bad he’s not half the actor those two are. What’s unfortunate is that Leto reportedly had trouble losing the weight, which caused him a number of serious health problems. Despite having the look down, Leto’s unreadable accent and overplayed desperation seem to reach out for attention, begging “please take me seriously.” Not possible when he’s uttering such wishy-washy dialogue void of insight or profundity.

Failing to attract enough attention at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Chapter 27 didn’t earn theatrical distribution in a theater near you. The limited release was extremely limited, sending it racing to DVD, probably because only the folks in Attica can relate to anything shown.

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