Chapter 27 [DVD]


By Clint Morris

The main character in J.P. Schaefer’s new film ‘Chapter 27’ mentions that he doesn’t go to the movies these days because they’re “phoney”; he’s referring to just how self-aware of themselves the actors are- with their deep breathing between lines and so on. He just doesn’t find anyone credible anymore.

If actors like Jared Leto were around in 1980, Mark David Chapman might never have felt that way.

Leto is a cinematic chameleon. He’s done it all – dimish high schooler on TVs ‘My So-Called Life’; ambitious waif-sized athlete in ‘Prefontaine’; smug businessman in American Psycho; conflicted criminal in ‘Panic Room’; and most recently, serial killer in ‘Lonely Hearts’ – and every time, he’s believable. Every time. He’s the type of actor that’ll go to great lengths to convince an audience that he’s left his body and the character he’s playing in any given film is occupying it for the next two hours or so.

In ‘Chapter 27’, Leto plays…. Sorry, is…. Mark David Chapman (a.k.a Holden Caulfield), the man who murdered John Lennon.

The young actor’s performance is truly a marvel. It’s an under-the-radar (because he isn’t quite of the calibre of Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey, you’ll probably never hear a lot about the effort he put into the part) performance that’s undeniably one of the most impressive turns, not only of his career, but also in recent film history. With an added 70 pounds to his frame (not some a good-looking young actor would normally be happy to do) and a truly unnerving cocktail of creepy mannerisms and vacant stares, he’s the movie’s golden ticket.

The film chronicles the three days leading up to the murder of musician John Lennon in New York City. Chapman, a chronic liar who tells people he’s just got off the plane from Hawaii, arrives in town with a plan. At first, he seemingly only wants to meet the former Beatle – along with a bunch of other fans, one played by Lindsay Lohan, camped outside his apartment – and get an autograph. By the day, the frumpy loser gets more frustrated though and is seemingly starting to hear ‘voices’. By the third day of his stay in New York, Chapman tells himself that it’s his duty to take out John Lennon.

As is usually the case with these ‘actor makes an incredible transformation’ movies, the film itself lets its headline act down. “Chapter 27” is interesting and at only 84 mins its easy to endure, but its all a bit under whelming. We don’t learn much at all about Chapman himself, and even with the short running time, the film still feels too languid.

All in all, Leto’s inspired performance is let down by a filmmaker’s uninspired turn behind the megaphone and a hasty hand between the typewriter.