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Chapter 27

"Chapter 27" peers into the mind of a real-life, insane killer and finds ... almost nothing of interest. In order to play John Lennon's assassin Mark David Chapman, actor Jared Leto gained some 70 pounds. Seemingly following his lead, the pic itself is heavy, lethargic, and exasperating.

With:
With: Jared Leto, Lindsay Lohan, Judah Friedlander, Ursula Abbott, Jeane Fourier, Brian O'Neill.

“Chapter 27” peers into the mind of a real-life, insane killer and finds almost nothing of interest. In order to play John Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman, actor Jared Leto gained some 70 pounds. Seemingly following his lead, the pic itself is heavy, lethargic, and exasperating. Whether this is due to the producer-star or due to debuting writer-director Jarrett Schaefer — or both — this dramatization of Chapman’s days in New York City leading up to the shooting yields little insight or entertainment value. Despite the presence of Lindsay Lohan (in a thankless support role), theatrical success looks about as likely as a 21st-century Beatles reunion.

Flying in from his Hawaii home, the creepy, awkward Chapman installs himself in a YMCA, then a Sheraton, spending most of his time hanging out in front of the fabled Dakota building hoping to get an autograph from resident Lennon. But since he’s brought a handgun, he presumably has a darker agenda from the start.

His repetitive verbal and voiceover ramblings show his obsessions with the Beatles and “Catcher in the Rye.” He seems to think he’s Holden Caulfield, sworn to avenge himself on all the “phonies” of the world, including ex-Beatle Lennon.

But since there’s no background given in screenplay (a brief conversation with his unseen wife back home is the only clue to his prior life), protag’s motivations are left blank.

Instead, pic gives a whopping dose of Leto with a black dye-job, pasty skin, glasses and double chin, whisper-talking in a rather actorish way, finding many excuses to doff his shirt so aud can appreciate his “Raging Bull”-style sacrifice for art. Chapman emerges more boring and irksome than scary.

Chapman meets Jude (Lohan), a local who also spends time hovering outside the Dakota, hoping for a glimpse of or word with her idol. As played in Lohan’s usual likeable, naturalistic style, it strains credibility that this normal young woman would spend even a minute befriending such an obvious weirdo.

Though preem screening clocked in 16 minutes shorter than run-time given in Sundance program, “Chapter 27” still feels low on incident and high in tedium, with ideas beginning to repeat themselves halfway through. On rare occasions when something does happen — notably when Chapman hires a prostitute — it’s a terribly obvious stab at pathos or menace.

Brief news clips reporting Lennon’s death and the widespread public mourning provide some respite from pic’s unrewardingly narrow focus.

While this sort of thing has certainly been done well before –“Taxi Driver” being the definitive example — Leto and Schaefer haven’t found a way of making their subject’s mental illness compelling.

Feature is pro but uninspired in all departments, with Anthony Marinelli’s competent but off-mark orchestral score just one more way in which “Chapter” fails to lend a seemingly sure-shot story any distinctive personality or drive.

Popular on Variety

Chapter 27

Production: A Peace Arch Entertainment Group release and presentation of an Artina Films production. Produced by Bob Salerno, Naomi Despres, Alexandra Milchan. Executive producers, Jared Leto, Rick Chad, Gilbert Alloul, John Flock, Gary Hosam, Lewin Webb. Directed by Jarrett Schaefer. Screenplay, Schaefer, inspired by the book "Let Me Take You Down" by Jack Jones.

Crew: Camera (color), Tom Richmond; editors, Jim Makiej, Andrew Hafitz; music, Anthony Marnelli; music supervisor, Tracy McKnight; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; art director, Randall Richards,; set decorator, Amanda Carrol; costume designer, Ane [sic] Crabtree; sound (Dolby Digital), Rob Getty, Alec St. John. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 25, 2007. Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Jared Leto, Lindsay Lohan, Judah Friedlander, Ursula Abbott, Jeane Fourier, Brian O'Neill.

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