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The Killing Of John Lennon
cast: Jonas Ball, Gunter Stern, Mie Omori, Robert Kirk, and Krishna Fairchild

writer and director: Andrew Piddington

108 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
Universal DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
Hmm... director with low budget seeks big name to make film marketable. Desired big name not achievable due to lack of funds so instead take famous person from past (check), and then add to movie title (check), and then make movie exploiting famous person's moniker (check). To the cynic it could be argued this is what writer-director Andrew Piddington does with The Killing Of John Lennon. His project - four years in the making - drew a stinging riposte from Yoko Ono who claimed that, "you [Piddington] are raping John's corpse." There are some who would find Ono's comments somewhat ironic.

Piddington has attempted to analyse Mark David Chapman's psyche to give an account of the final three months of Lennon's life, as seen through the eyes of Chapman whilst he stalks him. The film features Chapman's own words, tellingly these are taken third-hand through interviews etc, and presents an alternative view on Lennon's murder - an important distinction, Lennon wasn't killed, he was murdered; maybe this was too strong a word to use in the title.

Whilst this non-fiction drama fails to tell us anything we don't already know, it does present an interesting angle to an already well-documented story. Here we have a protagonist in Chapman, played by the effective Jonas Ball, for whom we are not meant to feel any empathy. The subject is a cold-hearted murderer who chose his victim at random and has in the past stated that his victim could easily have been any other famous person. Once Lennon was targeted, Chapman stalked him for three months, and his justification for the murder varied from religious disrespect on Lennon's part, to elimination of 'phoney' celebrities, to Chapman simply wishing to become famous for something, anything.

What is clear is that Chapman is psychotic and dangerous. Piddington handles the subject with rather sterile reverence; it seems his inspiration is more around the end product rather than the subject. The cast all work well together but as you would expect, it is Ball who gets most of the screen-time and he performs admirably. Much of the film is shot on location in Manhattan and there are a few period errors that are unforgivable, perhaps resulting from the budget constraints, not that I wish to excuse them. Additionally, this is more a biopic of a murderer than a film, and is about 20 minutes too long. Although the Stone inspired filming and stills are a nice touch.

This film will do Piddington's career good, and Ball has the potential to go further; I will watch their respective careers with interest. Meantime, The Killing Of John Lennon will likely split the Beatlemania camp straight down the middle. However, if you are fan, or are curious about how Lennon came to meet his maker, this is a worthwhile addendum to that story, but not the definitive word on it.

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