Bill Crider had a post up yesterday reminding his vast readership that Monday was the 28th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of Sundance Channel on Demand’s showing of The Killing of John Lennon (2006) last night…something I’m still regretting today.
I had reservations going into the film, because Lennon’s death still continues to resonate with me twenty-eight years later. There have been attempts to turn the events into movies or docudramas, one being Chapter 27 (2007), which I admittedly have not seen. My problem with a movie like Chapter or Killing is that by their very nature, they want the audience to identify with Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s assassin (what was going through his head, what were his motivations, etc.)—something I’m not quite prepared to do. I don’t feel sorry for Chapman…I can’t empathize with his plight or get inside his head to see what makes him tick because I personally despise the smug little essobee. I can’t see myself rooting for him to, as Cap’n Bob Napier so colorfully puts it, “get[ting] the flame stool” because I just can’t subscribe to the concept of killing people to show that killing people is wrong. (Still, if I had a shoe big enough, I wouldn’t be predisposed not to step on the little vermin.)
Writer-director Andrew Piddington commits one of the deadliest sins in cinema with Killing: his treatment of the subject matter comes across as deadly dull. Admittedly, he doesn’t have that much to work with: Chapman, as played by actor Jonas Ball, was an exceptionally shallow nutcase who had convinced himself that he needed to kill Lennon based on way-too-many readings of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman is a creep, and Piddington seems to want to cast the assassin as some sort of prophet in the Travis Bickle mold, forgetting that while Bickle may be a fascinating study to some, the film itself (Taxi Driver) really isn’t all that great (I can hear the stampede to the comments section now) and is particularly overrated in many respects. The only remote bright spot in the telling of Chapman’s tale is a brief bit where he flirts with a couple of female Lennon fans, totally oblivious to the fact that he’s coming across as a complete plonker.
Until I see Chapter 27, I’m going to continue to assert that the events surrounding the death of one of my musical heroes will play much better in a documentary format. That way, Mark David Chapman can be separated by the indifferent detachment of a narrator—which is just the right distance for me.