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USA 2006
Directed by
J.P. Schaefer
81 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Chapter 27

Critically-scorned in the US and not released theatrically in Australia, Chapter 27 has been unfairly treated for it is an economical and intense film, albeit hardly a crowd-pleaser. The general objection of the American’s to Schaefer’s film seems to be that it offers no explanation of why Mark David Chapman murdered John Lennon in cold blood in New York in December 1980. Whilst this is not exactly true it is hardly the point of the film.

Jared Leto, who was an executive producer, plays Chapman and the film portrays the mentally-disturbed killer in the 3 days prior to the murder. Lennon and The Beatles are taken for granted and bar a few fellow fans loitering outside the Dakota Building there is little to divert from Leto’s performance. This is no vanity project and the actor, who put on nearly 70lbs for the role, marvellously transforms himself into Chapman, a youngish man and a typical overweight, badly dressed “loser” who we get to know through Leto’s voice-over narration and what we see of Chapman’s interaction with other characters - a fan (Lindsay Lohan, somewhat unfortunately called “Jude”, something which Chapman improbably fails to notice), a small-time paparazzo, and a prostitute.

Writer-director J.P. Schaefer's script is based on the interviews with Chapman in crime reporter Jack Jones' 1992 book, Let Me Take You Down. No, there is no psychological explanation of the twisted reasoning that led Chapman to shoot Lennon and, of course, we, the audience do not know how similar or otherwise Leto’s Chapman is to the real killer but what we do get, is an effective portrait of a distorted mind at work, an emotional time-bomb primed with born-again Christian fundamentalism channeled into a fixation with Catcher In The Rye’s Holden Caulfield melding together into a fatal compulsion. We can thank Leto and Schaefer for giving us the banality and sparing us the explanation.

FYI: The title is derived from the idea that Chapman believed that he was adding an additional chapter to the 26 chapters of J.D. Salinger’s novel.




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