By Clint Morris
The main character in J.P. Schaeferâ€™s new film ‘Chapter 27’ mentions that he doesnâ€™t go to the movies these days because theyâ€™re â€œphoneyâ€; heâ€™s referring to just how self-aware of themselves the actors are- with their deep breathing between lines and so on. He just doesnâ€™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. Heâ€™s done it all â€“ 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’ â€“ and every time, heâ€™s believable. Every time. Heâ€™s the type of actor thatâ€™ll go to great lengths to convince an audience that heâ€™s left his body and the character heâ€™s playing in any given film is occupying it for the next two hours or so.
In ‘Chapter 27’, Leto playsâ€¦. Sorry, isâ€¦. Mark David Chapman (a.k.a Holden Caulfield), the man who murdered John Lennon.
The young actorâ€™s performance is truly a marvel. Itâ€™s an under-the-radar (because he isnâ€™t quite of the calibre of Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey, youâ€™ll probably never hear a lot about the effort he put into the part) performance thatâ€™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, heâ€™s the movieâ€™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 heâ€™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 â€“ 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 â€˜voicesâ€™. By the third day of his stay in New York, Chapman tells himself that itâ€™s his duty to take out John Lennon.
As is usually the case with these â€˜actor makes an incredible transformationâ€™ movies, the film itself lets its headline act down. â€œChapter 27â€ is interesting and at only 84 mins its easy to endure, but its all a bit under whelming. We donâ€™t learn much at all about Chapman himself, and even with the short running time, the film still feels too languid.
All in all, Letoâ€™s inspired performance is let down by a filmmakerâ€™s uninspired turn behind the megaphone and a hasty hand between the typewriter.