The only conclusion to be drawn from “The Killing of John Lennon,” a fictional re-creation of the title event, is that murderer Mark David Chapman (Jonas Ball) was a mentally unstable nobody who wanted to become a somebody; a goal that by ingenuity or luck (perhaps a bit of both) he accomplished.
His success arose by sandwiching his crime between two icons—ex-Beatle John Lennon and J.D. Salingers’ novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” both well respected at the time. Otherwise he’s just another crazed criminal and this movie does not exist.
Sadly enough, his act that shocked the world twenty-seven years ago, when absent its celebrated elements, pales in comparison with the deeds of the miscreants paraded through today’s media.
“The Killing of John Lennon” unfolds chronologically. The pithy material, of which there is little, comes at the end, by which time we’ve endured a great deal of Chapman’s redundant self-indulgent ramblings and anti-social behavior—nothing that Dr. Phil couldn’t squeeze into an hour show with commercial breaks.
Working as a security guard in Honolulu, the Georgia transplant’s only associates are his mother, who seems mostly interested in hooking a man many years her junior, and a mousy yet intelligent girlfriend who curiously not only tolerates his rants, but marries him.
The only continuity evident in a ramshackle existence comes from “The Catcher in the Rye,” a tale of an alienated 16-year-old, which he has adopted as his bible. Repeatedly reading from the book, the disillusioned and desperate man lays claim to the only identity he can find—the fictional life of a boy almost ten years his junior, portrayed in its pages.
He sees himself as Holden Cauldfield, the book’s central character, through which the brilliant Salinger turns teenaged angst into an art form. Most significantly (or conveniently), Caulfield holds “phonies” in contempt. And Chapman comes to view John Lennon as a phony.
Pulling a book from the shelves of the Honolulu library on the ex-Beatle, whose music he finds enjoyable, the soon-to-be assassin finds the songwriter’s lyrical philosophy and actual lifestyle in contradiction with one another. In light of this hypocrisy, he passes a death sentence on Lennon.
Chapman acquires a gun and locates the residence of John Lennon with the greatest of ease. His display of what would now constitute suspicious actions, including his overt inquiries about the comings and goings of the musician and his wife, Yoko Ono, fails to arouse the least bit of suspicion. The doorman seems more than willing to be of assistance.
The voice-over and Chapman’s dialogue all comes from his actual words. This does little for the drama, which couldhave benefited from a bit more a fictional touch.
There’s little arc to this sort-of-docudrama except when the dour Chapman finds relish in the attention and power ensuing from his criminal act. Like an attention-starved child, any notice is better than none at all.
Neither the sum nor the parts of this work bring much insight or revelation to the audience, whose sole satisfaction may lie with the credits at the end, which inform us that this man still remains behind bars, his parole rejected several times.