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Dying young has a tendency to make someone who’s famous, or been famous, into something more than they ever were. Yasser Arafat went from being a killer and a thug to an agent of peace. Not bad for the man who invented modern terrorism. James Dean was a moderately talented actor with screen presence to mythic proportions based on three roles. Not bad for an actor who’s work doesn’t hold up today in comparison to his contemporaries like Paul Newman and Marlon Brando. And John Lennon went from being a washed up musician whose better music and years were behind him to being an icon of music that died as the world’s biggest music star. Lennon’s untimely death, in 1980 after the release of a comeback one month earlier, has pushed him into music immortality and unfairly recognized him as the most talented Beatle because of his death.
Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, has often had his motivations speculated on. With a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” in his hands, and speculated reports on his mental health, Chapman is currently serving a life sentence in upstate New York for Lennon’s murder. While his mental health has been speculated upon by many sources, the question remains: What caused him to kill a Beatle? The Killing of John Lennon tries to follow Chapman’s mental state when he killed Lennon for no seeming reason.
Presented in a documentary style, with Jonas Ball playing Chapman, the film follows Chapman up until his fatal shooting of Lennon. Narrated by Ball (as Chapman, reading Chapman’s words) as well, the film is an interesting take on the life of one of history’s more notorious assassins. Shot on location in some of the same places that Chapman himself was at, the film is an interesting take on Chapman and his murder of Lennon as it walks through Chapman from his time in Hawaii to his move to New York.
His motivation mainly being the phoniness of Lennon preaching a minimalist lifestyle while being a millionaire and living an extravagant lifestyle, Chapman is portrayed as a man with some issues. And by some issues, it’s meant that he has LOT of mental problems going on. Chapman is a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode, idolizing a fictional character and seeking to emulate him. It’s interesting to hear Chapman talk about the events in past tense while they are currently happening on screen, as Chapman by this point would seemingly be in prison recounting the events that happened. The style works for the film’s portrayal Chapman; we get inside his head and get a better understanding of the man and why he did what he did. The mind of a mentally ill human being who completely justifies his actions is something to behold, that’s for sure.
If The Killing of John Lennon does suffer from one thing, its that it abandons its format for huge chunks and functions more like a thriller than a docudrama; there’s too many shots intended for a broader film, giving us more information than the genre should, and it tends to bog the film down.
It’s an interesting little independent film, for sure, and it doesn’t try to be anything more than that.
For an independent film of minimal repute, it has a terrific audio/visual transfer. Presented in a Dolby Digital format with a widescreen presentation, the film looks much better than its release status would otherwise decide. It has the look and feel of a documentary, but has solid colors and the 1970s decorum come through wonderfully. The audio takes full advantage of the format, using the whole surround to craft a terrific and engaging picture.
Deleted Scenes are included and don’t add much back into the film. There is plenty of them, though, as there is in excess of 30 minutes of deleted material.
The film’s Theatrical Trailer is included.
Commentary from Writer/Director Andrew Piddington is included.
The Killing of John Lennon is more of a curiosity pick of a DVD than anything else. For fans of the Beatles, or people interested in the murder of John Lennon, its an interesting companion piece to a film like Chapter 27 but isn’t worth seeking out on its own.
IFC Films presents The Killing of John Lennon. Written and Directed by Andrew Piddington. Starring Jonas Ball, Sofia Dubrawsky. Running time: 114 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: August 5, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.