... by the coward Mark Chapman
THE KILLING OF JOHN LENNON Directed by Andrew Piddington. Starring Jonas Ball, Mie Omori, Krisha Fairchild, Robert Kirk, Anthony Solis 15A cert, Cineworld/ IFI, Dublin; Eye, Galway, 114 min
MARK Chapman, the troubled JD Salinger enthusiast who murdered John Lennon, is, by all accounts, a fairly dull individual with a limited range of interests. So Andrew Piddington deserves some credit for resisting the temptation to juice up his subject’s personality in this unembellished analysis of events surrounding the assassination.
The first-time director, a graduate of British television, encourages Jonas Ball, who is in virtually every shot, to make a vacanttrainspotter out of Chapman. By quoting sections of the superficially similar Taxi Driver (shots of Raging Bull and Robert Redford’s Ordinary People also appear) Piddington is almost willing us to set De Niro’s charismatic nutter against Ball’s less captivating maniac.
Sadly, films about boring folk can often themselves be unexciting. The Killing of John Lennon is, ultimately, easier to admire than enjoy.
Quoting liberally from Chapman’s own diary, the film talks us through the textbook beginnings of this most archetypical of lone killers. While living in Hawaii, Mark ponders his remote, unemotional father and argues bitterly with both his promiscuous mother and his submissive wife. Eventually, inspired by his passion for Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and his revelation that Lennon has sold out, he buys a gun and heads for New York.
Piddington’s lack of confidence in the raw material is revealed through his promiscuous enthusiasm for showy camera pyrotechnics and self-conscious visual effects. Deprived of any great energy in the narrative, he attempts to conjure some up with juddering crash-zooms, speeded-up action and dizzyingly eccentric angles. None of this helps the film’s sad protagonist seem any more attractive.
Mark Chapman shot John Lennon to become Somebody, but Piddington seems to argue that the act only served to reveal the assassin’s hollowness to the world. The expression of that irony makes The Killing of John Lennon, for all its flaws, worthy of consideration.
The air up there: Jonas Ball as Mark Chapman