It's déjà vu all over again. The ink still isn't dry on my review of The Killing of John Lennon, which purported to take us deep inside the disturbed mind of Mark David Chapman, and now here's Chapter 27, which purports to do the same. I regret to say it doesn't find very much on its exploratory mission, having neglected to take along a flashlight. Of course, neither did The Killing of John Lennon. We all want to know why Chapman, a huge Lennon fan, felt compelled to kill the thing he loved, but we may never get a satisfactory answer, least of all from Chapman, who kept going on about Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger's novel about the world's most sensitive bullshit detector. Like Holden Caulfield, Chapman was on the lookout for phonies. And Lennon, in his opinion, was the biggest phony of them all.
As I asked last time, does that really work as an explanation? Holden Caulfield didn't murder anybody. And Chapman obviously had a lot more going on in that head of his. But you wouldn't know it from watching Chapter 27, which buys the Catcher in the Rye theory hook, line and sinker. It's even taken its title from what would have been the last chapter of Salinger's novel if he'd had the foresight to realize where the other 26 were really heading. Jared Leto, who did a Robert De Niro number, gaining nearly 70 pounds, plays Chapman, and it's a mild form of torture to watch him try to channel both Chapman and Caulfield. Chapman thought he was Caulfield, according to Chapman, but Leto should have chosen one or the other. And he should have worked out that Georgia-by-way-of-Pluto accent. He sounds like Jimmy Carter on poppers.
I'm being too hard on the guy. The role actually brings out something we haven't seen in him before - an imaginative daring. He's thought about what it's like to have voices in your head telling you to stop listening to the voices in your head. But the performance, finally, isn't credible - too actorish, too certifiably crazy. The movie isn't credible either. It feels forced, as if writer-director Jarrett Schaefer hasn't adequately wrestled with the demons Chapman unleashed. He takes Chapman's word for what he was up to, but Chapman, like Caulfield, is an unreliable narrator. You have to filter what he said through what he did and come up with your own explanation. Otherwise, you're buying into Chapman's myth about himself. To understand Mark David Chapman, I wouldn't watch Chapter 27. I'd watch Taxi Driver, then The King of Comedy.