... by the coward Mark Chap­man

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

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

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