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Chapter 27: Off target

Story of Lennon's killer is a serious offense

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Much of the criticism surrounding the books about Mark David Chapman, the former Decatur resident who murdered John Lennon in 1980, focuses on the dubious desire to give a delusional madman the publicity he craved. No doubt Chapter 27, writer/director J.P. Schaefer's adaptation of one such book, commits just that crime.

In cinematic terms, Chapter 27 commits the more heinous crime of tedium. As a movie, the story does little more than conjure up a sense of dread as it follows Chapman through his final days before he shot Lennon outside his Dakota apartment in New York City. That, and a game performance by a puffed-up Jared Leto, is about it. It's a lost opportunity to provide a deeper context for killing for validation, or to calculate the impact of an artistic genius and political activist.

To live inside the mind of Mark David Chapman for a few days isn't enough, and the viewer pays for Schaefer's miscalculation.

It's a shame because research shows that Chapman's life, however small, is worth examining from a psychological standpoint. His meager employment record, centered on work with an Atlanta YMCA chapter, and his mental institutionalization both reveal a man who had endeared himself to many. The alter ego to his murderous self seemed a well-intentioned person. Why did the evil half win?

Leto does his level best to tap into Chapman's duality with a lazy Southern drawl he must have tapped from growing up in Louisiana, and a set of loner's eyes constantly looking for a friend.

Chapman may have found one in those final days hanging out with other Beatles fans in front of the Dakota, hoping for a glimpse at the legend. Jude Stein (Lindsay Lohan) wound up chatting with him on occasion, seemingly sympathetic to a fellow fan. But, as in real life, the cinematic relationship goes nowhere.

As the minutes tick sadly away and the famous murder draws closer, the impulse increases to just look away, turn off the story and hope it won't happen again. Not just because of the impending tragedy, but also because Schaefer's story never made us care in the first place. And that's a crime.

Chapter 27. 2 stars. Directed by J.P. Schaefer. Stars Jared Leto, Lindsay Lohan. Rated R. Opens Fri., May 9. At Plaza Theatre.

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