Mark David Chapman had his 15 minutes of fame on December 8, 1980, a day that shall live in infamy. But here, nearly three decades later, is The Killing of John Lennon, another 15 minutes or so, which Chapman will surely appreciate. He still resides at Attica Prison, courtesy of the federal government, and nobody's heard much from him in a while, but you can almost imagine him pulling out a copy of this film at his next parole hearing. It purports to take us through the months before and after his Life Defining Moment, and although it's not a documentary, it draws heavily on court transcripts and interviews that Chapman has given over the years. We're supposed to feel like we're inside Chapman's head, apparently, but if you ask me, there doesn't appear to be anybody at home.
He was a nowhere man, of course. Or, as he later put it, "I was a nobody until I killed the biggest somebody on Earth." But if the inflamed-by-fame game isn't enough of an explanation for you, you may be in luck, because writer-director Andrew Piddington has another one he's peddling. Delusional if not outright psychotic, Chapman fell prey to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, fashioning himself a Holden Caulfield on the lookout for phonies. And Lennon, who'd imagined no possessions but owned several homes and a yacht, was the biggest phony of them all, by Chapman's way of thinking. But was that really how he felt, or was it just a rationale for grabbing and hogging the spotlight? Hard to say. What's weird is how boring the question turns out to be as newcomer Jonas Ball puts Chapman through his paces.
It's a decent enough performance - crazy but not too crazy, lest we completely lose the ability to identify with the guy. But Piddington works so hard to avoid judging Chapman that he almost winds up excusing him. Ball does a lot of narrating, all drawn from stuff Chapman actually said, and just hearing an actor deliver the lines makes them seem less deranged somehow. Ball's Chapman seems vaguely literary, an artist in his own right. But in the end he remains a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a .38 revolver. Piddington tries every camera trick in the book to convey what it must have felt like to stand outside the Dakota, waiting for your destiny to arrive. But if this movie's any indication, it didn't feel like much of anything.