“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 2007 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Andrew Piddington / Actors: Jonas Ball, Krishna Fairchild, Gunter Stern, Mie Omori, Robert Kirk ... / DVD released 2008-03-31 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: PAL „
- Cast/Credits -
- Story -
This is pretty much a case of 'it does what it says on the tin' so to speak, in that its about the killing of John Lennon but don't mistake that for meaning that its all about John, as its really all about the killer, Mark David Chapman. The film starts with Mark at home in Hawaii with his wife and mother and it continues through until when he shot and killed John Lennon and even what happened afterwards, with a basic rundown of what happened from the end of the last scene described in text just before the credits roll at the end.
- Thoughts and Opinions -
This is very much an indie movie, it has quite a gritty feel to it, with the narration by the killer himself in a garbled or otherwise slightly distorted tone, which adds to the surreal tone of the movie. Although the movie is based on whats known of Chapmans life, of course its a dramatisation and as such, it can't be 100% accurate but it certainly does quite a good job of painting this image of a clearly unstable mans life and of providing an insight to his very distorted way of thinking, his presumed reasoning behind that tragic shooting, although its hard to really understand fully his reasonings given the fact that he was clearly mentally ill.
The movie doesn't just cover Chapman's clear love for The Catcher In The Rye (Mark keeps referring to the catcher in the rye and the character Holden Caulfield, how he believes he somehow fortold or predicted what he was going to do - the quote often repeated throughout the movie being 'the phoney must die said The Catcher In The Rye'), his decision to move to New York and carry out that 'dastardly deed', indeed it tries to give an insight into his family life back 'home' in Hawaii (though, as others point out, he doesn't sound like he comes from Hawaii and indeed he clarifies that he was originally from Georgia), with scenes involving a seemingly rather distant (and painfully unaware it seems) wife and a frustrated mother, as well as scenes covering his dealings with the police after being arrested and his subseqent time spent in a psychiatric hospital, where he's interviewed by a member of staff. Fans of Lennon may well be frustrated to see the effort police went to, to protect Chapman from members of the public who were so angry at him (of course there were people who issued death threats towards him too - I'd imagine the hysteria that occured at the time John died (in terms of the impact his death had in relation to popular culture) was similar to that of Michael Jacksons passing and there are certainly plenty of people who want Conrad Murray to be under lock and key, im sure.
Of course the title of the movie and indeed the plot is all about the killing that made Chapman famous, yet the movie is really about him, his background, his thoughts/method and not about Lennon, who only features in the present time (ie the time he was killed, as in 1980) for the briefest of moments. If your looking for a film that goes into detail about Johns life and times and all about the Beatles popularity etc. then this is not for you, indeed it could well frustrate you in a sense in that I felt there was a slight tone to it, more towards the end perhaps, that makes you pity him, which would likely make some peoples blood boil - why feel sorry for someone who did such a horrible act and robbed the world of somebody who was so important etc. Having said all that, this film shouldn't really be criticised for that, I mean its supposed to be about him and I felt that it was quite absorbing for an indie film, creating a rather spooky atmosphere with a slightly off centre narration explaining what you were seeing as a clearly unstable character was drawn deeper into the world his mind saw, becoming more detached from reality and ultimately its up to the viewer to come to their own conclusion(s) about Chapman, whether you feel any pity for him or not. Back to what I was saying earlier about the focus not being on the Beatles and I should probably point out that while this is the case, there is some footage of the group featured on a couple of ocassions/scenes, footage of the group out and about, posing for photos and a conference or two I believe, though the narration talks over the audio at points.
This does mainly feel like a work of fiction, although im sure that the main aspects of it are based on facts gained from numerous interviews with him and those who encountered him (such as other fans (groupies?) who he introduced himself to as a fellow fan, prior to the killing). Its intriguing and should interest those who are fascinated by the psychology behind killers and suchlike, although apart from that im not sure who else would particularly enjoy it, as I couldn't comment on exactly how accurate it is and as I say, those who were around when the killing occured and who were upset and moved by it, may well find it in a way offensive (not everyone but some may, seeing it as a bit tacky to put the emphasis and possibly a very slight sympathetic slant into someone who should never have been allowed to travel and needed to seek help long before - I'm not sure that pity is necessarily appropriate, yes he clearly was/is seriously troubled and has mental illness(es) but I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of pitying him in a sense...it does make you think that its uncomfortable to know that society missed the signs and couldn't identify him as being such a troubled individual before he did what he did though). In a sense its sad if Chapman knows about this movie, as its clear by the end of the film that he had a craving for attention and so making such films may only add more to his sense of self worth, that he's still getting some sort of fame and notoriety even over 20 years after the event, which could be seen as distasteful. I don't really wish to get into a debate about the morals behind the film as such, the fact is its been made and its up to you whether this is something that you'd find interesting, if the case (as it were) is one that has peaked your interest, if you'd like to see a dramatisation of what we believe went on in the mind of the disturbed killer, so otherwise I'll just say that I think its a pretty interesting movie that should interest those with a desire to get into the mind of a killer.
I'm sure there is an audience for the film, with people including those of my generation who grew up learning what an impact The Beatles and John Lennon himself had on UK and US popular culture in the 60s and 70s and the fact that Johns life was tragically cut short - for us its probably more interesting to see such a film that gives an idea of what happened, at least as far as I'm concerned I never knew that much about it and I became curious to watch this film and learn more about what had happened after catching a documentary about the murder on ITV last month, on the anniversary of Johns death (and subsequently I found another review of this film on Ciao, which led to me adding it to my rental list). As I say, I found it quite an engrossing watch - Jonas Ball certainly played his part well, depicting Mark as a rather peculiar, dishevelled man - the scenes in which his anger gets the better of him are pretty chilling and I would say that he looks the part, although of course its a fair question to ask what does a killer look like? oh he looks like someone who would do such an act, thats perhaps a peculiar and even possibly dangerously stereotyped thing to say but I did feel like the character on screen seemed very believable given their story and what occured, it didn't seem too sterile, if that makes any sense.
- Would I Recommend It? -
Yes, I suppose I would, as long as your aware of the slant this movie takes and you won't be offended by the fact that its all about Chapman and of course I can't outright confirm its accuracy at all, I'd say that this is a movie which is worth a watch. I felt that it was quite an absorbing movie which gave a (rather unsettling) insight into Chapman's clearly troubled mind and his detachment from the real world. The narration makes it feel more 'real' somehow and even this is somehow detached by the voice being quite garbled and there are some visuals which also, uh visualise the links in his thinking, what was troubling him and so on, it all adds to a sense of surrealism which makes the film quite engrossing somehow.
This won't be a film that everyone will love or hate, im sure there are very different opinions about it depending on who you ask but as im only really here to rate and review the film for what it is, I'd personally rate this with four stars, as a good film, though not quite excellent, with the one star off being that it won't suit everyones taste and a slight sense that perhaps it pities him a bit, I think - certainly there was a part of me that was somehow uncomfortable with the way the police treated him (thats not to say that its not accurate but I didn't much like it either).
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful - thanks for all rates and comments. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
RELEASED: 2007, Cert.15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR: Andrew Piddington
PRODUCERS: Andrew Piddington & Rakha Singh
MUSIC: Martin Kiszko Makana
MAIN CHARACTER: Mark Chapman (played by Jonas Ball)
NB: Film only review
On 8th December 1980, the world was stunned when Mark Chapman boldly and blatantly fired a round of bullets into John Lennon as he and Yoko Ono returned to their home in the Dakota Building, New York, after a recording session.
When I spotted the movie The Killing Of John Lennon in the great Sainsbury sell-off for a mere £1, I bought it, not expecting much from it at all. I didn't read the details on the CD sleeve and wondered if it was a film that I'd seen quite a few years ago about John Lennon's murder, which despite having been fairly watchable, wasn't all that good. After viewing this newly-bought DVD recently, I was able to determine that they are completely different films from one another. Not quite knowing what to expect and feeling that it could be a sensationalist farce regarding the murder of a much-admired man, I clicked the "play" button and settled to see what it was all about.
The film opens in September of 1980, where we see 24-year-old Texas-born Mark Chapman living in Honolulu, Hawaii, behaving rather strangely. He comes across as somewhat of an enigma; an unbalanced, volatile man who is definitely very troubled. He has a difficult relationship with his mother who appears more interested in her toy boys than her son, and he is tortured by childhood memories of cruelty suffered at the hands of his father. Mark works as a security guard, but aside from his job, seems unable to steadily apply himself to anything and he appears to be very restless. Despite being married to a Japanese girl who he seems fond of but is rather domineering towards, he spends much of his spare time when not working, driving haphazardly through the streets of Honolulu and making random phone calls to various people....during these phone calls, he simply says to the person on the other end..."Bang bang, you're dead!", whilst holding his fingers up in a gun shape and simulating pulling a trigger.
Mark comes across as very intelligent, complex and somewhat deep, but a definitely unbalanced and off the wall young man. He is a lonely individual who admits to needing company, yet at the same time shuns it and is constantly seeking solace inside of Honolulu's main library. It is from this library that he first borrows and reads J D Salinger's classic novel, Catcher In The Rye. Becoming obsessed with the storyline of the book, Mark's mind concentrates itself on the vision he has inside of his head of the world, what he perceives to be the badness within, and how he believes he can change it.
Mark is also a great admirer of The Beatles and their music, yet feels that John Lennon as a person is a phoney. It has been said in the past that Mark actually believed himself to be the true John Lennon and that the real Lennon was an imposter, but as far as this film is concerned, that's not the case at all. Despite being married to a Japanese woman and on his last day at work before his first trip to New York signing his name as John Lennon whilst clocking off from his duty shift, Mark doesn't believe that he actually IS Lennon....it is that he is incensed by Lennon's double standards, feeling that he (Lennon) is a fake and a phoney for preaching non-materialism, yet being one of the wealthiest people in the world who owns a lot of wildly expensive chattels.
Burning with an emotion which there may not even be a name for, Mark decides that in order to further his campaign of cleaning up the world of what he views as undesirable characters (as well as believing Lennon to be a phoney, Mark is also aggressively homophobic and views people such as prostitutes as the scum of the earth), he must travel to New York and kill John Lennon. He buys a gun and a one way plane ticket without even telling his wife or mother he is going.
Once in New York, Mark settles in a hotel and spends his days and evenings hanging around The Dakota Building where John Lennon shared an apartment with Yoko Ono and their little son Shaun. He manages, through chatting to one of the building's security guards, to learn the basics of Lennon's comings and goings, but after a few days, Mark bottles out and decides to go back to Honolulu.
After returning home, Mark's state of mind continues to deteriorate, and he is troubled with nightmares, temper outbursts and dark thoughts invading his mind. He turns to his beloved Catcher In The Rye novel once more, reads several passages from the book, then in a frantic state of burning rage, returns to New York, once again with the intention of killing John Lennon. He actually has a mental list of people he wants to assassinate....Lennon simply happened to be no.1 on that list.
This time Mark stays in a seedy YMCA hostel and is greatly disturbed by the fact that there is a gay couple in the room next to him, and he can hear them having sex....this causes him to have some pretty disturbing nightmares about gunning both the gay guys down at point-blank range. He swallows the rage down and saves it for his campaign against ex-Beatle John Lennon, once again periodically (in between sleeping and eating) taking up his position outside the Dakota Building, waiting for Lennon to come home from his recording session. He does manage to catch sight of Lennon during the earlier part of the day, and asks him to autograph a copy of the Double Fantasy album, which had just been released. John happily signs the album, and Mark holds the LP record close to his chest, positively cherishing it!
During the evening of the same day, Mark (after a rest) returns to The Dakota Building, still clutching his signed copy of the Double Fantasy album, and waits for Lennon to reappear. After a while, a car draws up, Lennon and Yoko Ono get out, and make their way through a small alleyway which leads to their residence. Out of the shadows Mark steps....he quietly calls "Mr Lennon"....John turns around to face him, then Mark crouches and fires several shots into the ex-Beatle's stomach and chest.
Whilst paramedics attend to the dying Lennon, Mark doesn't run - he just stands and observes. When the police arrest him, he doesn't resist and goes off with them as quietly and meekly as a lamb. Inside of the police station, things become difficult because it's obvious that many of the cops present on duty, who are aware of what has happened, are shell-shocked and want to get their hands on Mark, but they know they must keep a professional distance and treat him the same as any other criminal in their custody.
This isn't a spoiler, as it's not a fictional film....most, if not all of us know that Mark Chapman was sent to New York's notorious Belle Vue Hospital for psychiatric asssessment, then was transferred to a state prison after his trial at which he was given at least twenty years' incarceration. Once inside prison, Mark had to be placed in solitary confinement for his own safety, and remains there to this day.....several appeals have been made to grant him his freedom, but they have so far all been denied. It is believed that he is no longer a danger to the public, but must be kept in prison for his own safety because there apparently are still people out there in the world who, more than thirty years after the incident, are burning to exact tit-for-tat revenge against the man who took the life of their idol John Lennon.
The whole movie is presented solely through the eyes of Mark Chapman, and shouldn't be perceived as being a piece of Beatles/Lennon memorabilia, although it does contain some rather speedily flipped through Beatles/Lennon footage. It's not a film about Lennon - it's a factual film about Mark Chapman, concentrating on the weeks before Lennon's murder, the murder itself, and the short-term aftermath.
Much of the film is geared towards what is running through Mark Chapman's mind, and his tumbling thoughts are spoken documentary-style by the actor Jonas Ball in between his acting dialogue, as he plays his role throughout the movie. There is a little sentence which appears printed on the screen during the film's opening credits, that these spoken thoughts are actually taken from interviews and conversations with Mark Chapman since his arrest on the night of the Lennon murder, plus various writings he has scribbled from time to time.
I was hooked into the film from the very first frame, fascinated by not only the haphazard, rather vulnerable character of Mark Chapman, but very impressed by Jonas Ball's portrayal of the man who took John Lennon's life. It's true that actor Jonas Ball bore only a vague resemblance appearance-wise to the real Mark Chapman in the film, but that didn't spoil my viewing experience in the slightest. Of course, I can't comment on the accuracy of the film regarding the portrayal of Mark Chapman's life in the weeks leading up to the crime he committed, but I can say that as far as my memory of newsreels, the press etc. stands, Lennon's actual murder and the way in which it happened is re-created spot-on.
The character chosen to play the part of John Lennon (and he only made a couple of brief appearances in the film) was made to resemble him adequately, and care was taken to dress the actor in exactly the type of clothes Lennon would have worn, although I do feel his (the actor's) glasses were a little too big compared to what Lennon was famous for wearing. Most of the short scenes where Lennon is present are filmed in such a way that you don't get to see him full-on or in great detail, and I suspect this was done deliberately so as not to compromise on accuracy.
Where for me the movie did go slightly wrong was that I felt the actress used to play the part of Yoko Ono didn't resemble her closely enough, and it would have come across as more authentic if her scenes had been filmed more off to the side and with less detail, as were those of the Lennon character. The face of the actress who played her was distinctly fuller and chubbier than was Yoko Ono's at the time....her hair was different, and her eyes were a completely different shape to Yoko's.
As far as I'm concerned, the whole film was admirably and expertly dominated by Jonas Ball's portrayal of Mark Chapman, but it must be remembered that he is the only main character, as the movie is about him, not anybody else. The characters of John Lennon and Yoko are incidental and peripheral.
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by The Killing Of John Lennon - happy that it wasn't the distinctly inferior film which I'd viewed several years ago - and I'd truly recommend it to anybody who finds the topic of delving into the mind of a deeply disturbed killer fascinating. This movie has led me to a possibly wrong opinion that, had Mark Chapman somehow managed to get away with Lennon's murder and escaped uncaptured, he would have stepped up his "clean the world" campaign, becoming a serial killer of those who were on his hit-list....that hit-list included Jackie Onassis!
If I were in charge of awarding Oscars, I'd certainly have made sure that Jonas Ball received one for his skilful - and at times very moving - portrayal of the troubled ex-Beatle killer, Mark Chapman, especially as it was his first major acting role. He managed to deliver all of the dialogue, facial expressions, bodily stances/movements required with a perfection that I sadly feel has been given nowhere near the recognition he deserves. It must have been a very demanding role, and Jonas truly seemed to put his heart and soul into delivering it in a way that is convincing, intriguing, chilling and at times heart-rending.
Here and there on various internet film review sites, I have read some mixed opinions about this movie and it appears to be something that people either love or hate...I loved it, and was totally absorbed and fascinated by watching Mark Chapman's disturbed mind mutate, churn, and take him to a place whereby he was single-mindedly compelled to put his fantasy of murdering John Lennon into reality.
I only have two words to say at this point....watch it!
At the time of writing, The Killing Of John Lennon can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £1.99 to £21.44
Used: from £1.62 to £4.99
Collectible: Only one copy currently available at £5.00
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above costs.
As far as I can determine, the movie hasn't been uploaded onto YouTube in its entirety, and there are precious few clips/trailers available. Should you wish to view these clips/trailers, it is important to use the search term "The Killing Of John Lennon movie" - remember to add the word "movie", otherwise all you'll get in your results list is the actual newsreels of the tragic event. Even searching via the strategy I suggest, you will still get lots of newsreels appear in your results.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~