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Chapter 27 (2007)

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A haunting look at the mental collapse of Mark David Chapman in the days leading up to the murder of legendary musician John Lennon. Jared Leto stars as the man whose awe of Lennon and unrelenting drive to achieve infamy pushed him to pull the trigger on the former Beatle.

I posted this back in the first month of my site opening, and whilst I got comments from Eric & Misty (a lot about Stephen King!) no one else saw it. I don’t feel bad about reposting it since they both still haunt me here, and I’m sure they don’t mind me sharing this post with (hopefully) a few more of you this time. So here again is my directors cut of an early review. And just to whet your appetite, a brand new Face Off is coming on Friday this week. I hope it is even remotely close to being as popular as the last one. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the movie Chapter 27.

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Chapter 27 is a 2007 biographical film depicting the murder of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman (Jared Leto). The film is based on the book Let Me Take You Down by Jack Jones. It deals almost wholly with the actions of Mark Chapman during the three days before his murder of Lennon. It takes place in December 1980, and is intended to be an exploration of Chapman’s psyche.

On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman shocked the world by murdering 40-year old musician and activist, John Lennon, outside The Dakota, his New York apartment building. Since I am a little too young to have witnessed The Beatles in their prime and the aftermath, I had to do a little research before and after I watched Chapter 27. I actually saw it years ago but really felt I was missing a lot of the references to the 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger which is mentioned throughout the film and actually what the title refers to. I was determined to watch it again at some point and have finally got round to it. I finished Catcher in the Rye a few months ago and having now seen the film again it does make a lot more sense.

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We spend a lot of the film watching Chapman waiting outside The Dakota in the hope of catching a glimpse of Lennon. Whilst waiting he meets Jude, a young fan played by Lindsay Lohan. A little while later he meets Jude’s friend Paul, a paparazzi photographer. Chapman is seen interacting with a few other people, more often than not the hotel workers, but that’s pretty much it as far as action and locations go. We do get to see Chapman go a little Taxi Driver-esque with a gun in his hotel room but this is very much a slow burn study of one mans psyche. Chapman’s motives were fabricated from pure delusion, fueled by an obsession with the fictional character Holden Caulfield and his similar misadventures in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. After reading the book this made much more sense to me this time round. The way Chapman speaks, such as referring to things as ‘phoney‘, his mannerisms and quirks are straight out of the novel. Obviously this is just one movie based on one book and there are probably hundreds of other interpretations of the motives and mental state of Chapman.

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Mark David Chapman was obsessed with the novel Catcher in the Rye and, in fact, was carrying it when he shot John Lennon. Salinger’s novel has 26 chapters. The title of the movie Chapter 27 suggests a continuation of the novel and Chapman’s attempt to model his own life after the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield. According to Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (2000) by New York journalist Robert Rosen, it was Chapman’s goal to write Chapter 27 in Lennon’s blood. Rosen also explores the numerological meaning of the number 27 or “triple 9”, a number in which Lennon professed to have a deep interest. I have yet to read this but I’m definitely looking to pick it up and study it some time soon.

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Jared Leto’s performance as Chapman is incredible. Whatever peoples opinions are on the film (it received a few campaigns to try and stop its release, from Lennon fans not wanting Chapman to be glorified in a film, right down to Yoko Ono criticising it), Leto’s dedication to playing this part deserved the awards and praise he received. As the photos in this review show, the effort he made to be as convincing in the part as possible are extraordinary. He gained 67 pounds (30 kg) by drinking microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with soy sauce and olive oil every night to try and complete the Chapman look. I think you will agree he definitely managed this. Such was his dedication he had to use a wheelchair due to the stress of the sudden increase in weight put on his body.

jared leto weight gain

Chapman is shown as having a restless mind. His actions and mood during the film changes uncontrollably between paranoia, sociopathic lying and delusion. He lies to cab drivers (identifying himself as The Beatles’ sound engineer) and displays socially unacceptable behavior to the people he meets outside The Dakota. Leto perfectly portrays a man who has all these strange tendencies and he keeps the psychoses bubbling below the surface as his grasp on reality deteriorates into a completely misguided rage.

chapter 27 lohan

Lindsay Lohan only has a small role but I thought she was fine, nothing spectacular but she came across as a sweet natured girl who only tried to be friendly with Chapman. People have a real strong dislike for Lohan but in Chapter 27 she played her part well and does not let herself or the film down. Visually the movie looked good, but a lot of criticism has been aimed at the hotel looking like new, whereas in 1980 it was apparently run down. This aside, we don’t get to see much of New York so there was nothing else really visually going on. No blood or gore on show here, even the killing of Lennon at the end is more of a powerful scene where we just watch Chapman fire the gun and hear the screams, rather than focus in on or glorify Lennon’s death.

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In closing, Chapter 27 is an interesting piece of cinema that I feel will be appreciated more by Beatles and John Lennon fans, or maybe those who have read Salinger’s novel. I’m not saying you will agree with what is shown, and some people may boycott the film out of sheer hatred towards what Chapman did. If anything it makes for an interesting character study and as a reader of the Catcher in the Rye it was interesting to see how seriously one man took that book and what he was willing to do. I would have liked the film to delve a little deeper into the mind of the killer, but other books have done this and Chapter 27 even begins with a narration from Chapman (Leto) saying this is not the time or place to do that. It is strictly the events of those fateful 3 days.

6 stars

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54 Comments

  1. I remember I saw this awhile back and didn’t think there was anything about it that was good, but not necessarily terrible either. Leto was good, but I think that weight-gain was a bit of a waste for this type of material. Good review Tyson.

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    • I guess if he didnt take it seriously and looked nothing like Chapman it gave the haters even more to complain about! The fact that Leto produced it too, well it got him great word of mouth and people took it more seriously than they may have otherwise. Glad you’ve seen it though! Cheers buddy 🙂

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  2. theipc

     /  February 19, 2013

    “Haunt” eh? The following button sure is right next to the liked button….

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  3. It does annoy me that fans want to get something blocked because it interferes with their hero. The film is going into his mind slightly. There weren’t that many complaints when they made the TV series about Ronnie Biggs or Peter Sutcliffe. Personally I wouldn’t watch it because I have never been a fan of the Beatles. Although I wonder what would happen if you pointed a fan at beatles as they were running across a table? Hmmm anyway. Yeah, not my type of film but others may want to see what it was in those three days that made him pull the trigger. As for Leto – bloody hell, that is some going. Then he had to get himself fit again afterwards? His body must have been in shock for months

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    • That’s crazy fans for you, making a bad name for the ‘normal’ fans. LOL 🙂

      Yeah he put some dedication into his role did Leto. I met him not long after this was finished and he was back to looking slim and amazing……..my wife will testify to his looks. But yeah, he has gone the other way now and is anorexicly thin for his new role as a cross dresser. He definitely does as much as possible not to play just his normal good looking self! 😛

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    • Yeah him and Matthew Mconaughey are both so skinny for the role, got to be there or there abouts come award season next year. De Niro used to it, Christian Bale has done it a lot. Seems some people will push their bodies to the limit for the role.

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    • Yeah I’d rather do the weight gain roles 🙂

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  4. “He gained 67 pounds (30 kg) by drinking microwaved pints of ice cream mixed with soy sauce and olive oil every night to try and complete the Chapman look.”

    I don’t even know how to respond to that…

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  5. wordschat

     /  February 19, 2013

    Another bio movie to see. Hopefully from Netflix. Wow what a transformation by Leto!

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    • I hope you get to see it if the subject matter interests you buddy, definitely worse things to watch! Leto is nothing but dedicated to say the least! Cheers 😛

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      • wordschat

         /  February 19, 2013

        Shades of Christian Bale but in reverse for The Machinist. There he lost so much weight it almost killed him. Wish I looked liked Leto’s before (woof) and not approaching Leto\s / Chapmans look. Time for less McDonalds. Cheers to the U.K. crowd.

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        • Leto is now just as skinny as Bale went for The Machinist. Shaved all body hair to play a cross dresser in his new film. Committed!!

          Definitely enough to put anyone off McDonald’s seeing how good he looks normally 🙂

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  6. Nice review, I’ve been meaning to see this one for a while.
    I’m very excited to read the next Face Off!

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  7. I’m looking forward to seeing the next Face Off.

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  8. Never thought I could feel sympathy to the man who murdered John Lennon. Well done!

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  9. I’m glad you reposted this, it’s a great review. I’ve never really seen Leto in anything that made me think he was a good actor, but the dedication shown to this role and his portrayal of Chapman certainly made me think otherwise.

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  10. I had no interest in this film at all, but after reading your review, I may give it a shot. I only heard terrible things about it. If my backlog wasn’t so massive already, I’d watch it sooner than later. Good review.

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  11. Nice write up! I think I may take a look at this.

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  12. I can only imagine (no pun intended) how much more great music there could have been. I would love a feature film on Catcher in the Rye, great novel.

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    • Yup, such a shame. 😦

      I wasn’t blown away by the novel if I’m being honest, read it a couple of times now but it did make more of this film make sense 🙂

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  13. Always quite fancied this one man. That’s quite a transformation from Leto. He’s a very underrated actor I think. Great review again sir!

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  14. gregory moss

     /  February 20, 2013

    Great write-up TC! Also interesting to note that the Dakota is the very same apartment building which features in Roman Polanski’s film Rosemary’s Baby. Spooky. 🙂

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  15. nothing wrong in re-posting in my eyes man. I have loads of posts from when i got started that didn’t get the views for the work i had put in so would consider doing so now with a better base to go at, but hey! Leto looks very creepy, never seen this but he was excellent too in Requiem for a Dream.

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    • Thanks buddy! Yeah it’s worth it looking at the responses now, seems a shame to write and not have things seen!

      Requiem is a tough watch but excellent film. Ill be reviewing that soon as its in the top 250 🙂

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  16. Mithil

     /  February 24, 2013

    Like you i have seen this some years back. Back then i dint know what it was. I rem getting spooked about those calls he made from his hotel. It was a good experience. You are right it makes a good view if you are searching for individualistic performances.

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