The early press on Chapter 27 was all about Jared Leto's preparation for the role of Mark David Chapman, the deranged psychopath who assassinated John Lennon outside the Dakota building in New York in 1980. Pretty boy Leto binged on liquefied ice cream to put on 60 pounds for the role. The film itself highlights that feat, too, with several shots framed to underscore his fat belly and double chin. But Leto's adopted girth is some of the only heft the film supplies.
Leto disappears into his new look, but he has a hard time disappearing into his character. His affected Southern accent is goofy, his diction so slow and deliberate as to be hard to believe. This may be an accurate portrayal of Chapman himself (it's hard to say), but when Leto's character rails, Holden Caulfield-style, against the "phoniness" of film actors, it becomes unintentionally funny.
Which is not to say that there's no drama in the film. Indeed, in any film whose conclusion is so infamous, there's an inherent suspense. We know how it ends, but how are we going to get there? The filmmaker (J. P. Schaefer) follows Chapman -- a rabid Beatles fan -- to the Dakota several times as he yearns to catch a glimpse of Lennon. Each time, you wonder if this is the moment. But he plays it out -- giving you the briefest glimpses throughout of Chapman brandishing the gun, taking aim -- and moves on.
There's also an interesting exploration of Chapman's fragile psyche. It's clear that his personality lacks the boundaries held by others. He so loves Catcher in the Rye that he feels he is Holden Caulfield. He loves Lennon so much that he believes Lennon loves him back. And, granted, untangling the inner tangles of a psychopath is no easy task, but the film devolves into multiple simultaneous voiceovers and paranoid tedium. (Here the disc could've benefited from a few special features to provide context on Chapman and the murder that the film lacks.)
The only bright spots in the film are a bit part by Judah Friedlander (playing a stony paparazzo) and the appearance of Lennon himself, who is tragically polite to the man who would assassinate him just hours later.
But the question still remains: Why? (Rated R)