The Killing of John Lennon

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IFC Films

NE
W YORK -- "The Killing of John Lennon" boasts an undeniable technical proficiency and historical authenticity, but this docudrama detailing assassin Mark David Chapman's obsession, stalking and eventual murder of the beloved Beatle nonetheless has an unavoidably exploitative feel.

One of two movies -- "Chapter 27," starring a fattened-up Jared Leto, is the other -- recently made concerning the event, the film lacks the depth that might justify its existence. The picture opened Wednesday for an exclusive engagement at New York's IFC Center.

In both his screenplay and his visuals, filmmaker Andrew Piddington applies a powerful documentary-style approach to the material, filming for the most part on actual locations (the shooting at the Dakotas, thank goodness, was re-created on a soundstage) and incorporating numerous excerpts from the killer's diaries as voice-overs.

The film dutifully covers all of the story's important elements, including Chapman's leaving his Japanese-American wife (Mie Omori) in Honolulu; traveling to New York and spending several months doggedly trailing his prey; the obsession with "Catcher in the Rye" and his view of Lennon's supposed hypocrisy that fueled his rage; and the immediate aftermath of the killing, including a less-than-illuminating session with a police shrink.

The filmmaker attempts to give us clues to the killer's mental state with effective stylistic devices, as well as several fantasy sequences, including one in which Chapman imagines shooting a homosexual couple.

But despite such attempts at providing psychological context for his actions, Chapman inevitably remains an enigma, a severely disturbed young man whose motivations necessarily resist explication. And the film does itself no favors with its direct quoting of touchstones of this genre such as "Taxi Driver."

Jonas Ball delivers an impressively restrained performance in the central role, his deadpan facial expressions and monotone vocals proving far more creepy than he if had indulged in histrionics.     

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