I got a chance to see The Killing of John Lennon yesterday. It was being offered OnDemand through Comcast. The film is actually on very limited release through IFC, but I believe the only city showing it is New York City as of this post.
First off, this film is better than the very mediocre, Chapter 27. If you have to choose between both films on this dark subject, I would say this is the superior one. Still, it's a film that is nothing special. It's basically about Lennon's killer (I'm not even going to type his name, so look it up if you don't know him. I will refer to him simply as The Killer) leading up to the murder and the aftermath of his action.
The film uses a good amount of voice-over and he's basically the only person in the whole film that you even get to know. Jonas Ball, who plays The Killer, does a decent job being in I think every scene, but still it begins to lose you. Too much voiceover hurt his performance. I felt like he needed the voiceover to explain everything.
I thought the supporting job of some of the other characters was also weak and partially hurt Bell's performance. I can't believe I'm writing this, but the girl who played Jude was horrible (Lindsey Lohan played her in Chapter 27, has a much bigger role, and was better.) and gave a cardboard performance. I also was not very crazy about Paul (the photographer) in this film. I also preferred Judah Friedlander's performance from Chapter 27. I just thought both performances in this film were real weak points and annoying. It was either bad casting or poor direction, or maybe a little of both.
Also, for some reason, The Killer doesn't have his interaction with Sean and his nanny (Not really sure why since it happened and is important in my opinion) on the day he killed Lennon. How hard could it have been to film that? I also don't really like his interaction with Lennon when he gets the autograph. I preferred that in the other film, Chapter 27. Not that it really matters, but Lennon and Ono in this film don't look very much like Lennon and Ono circa 1980. If you can't find someone suitable to look like them, then don't shoot them so close. That's what they did in Chapter 27. It's a small detail, but takes away from the realism when I see a Japanese woman who looks nothing like Ono.
I also think this film was a little too long (close to two hours, but should have strived for 90 minutes) and to be honest, I don't really care too much what happens after the murder. There is a scene between The Killer and a shrink in the prison talking about the murder. Really a waste of time in my opinion. There's also a scene of The Killer being escorted to prison and the cop asks him, "Why did you do it?" Again, a waste of time. I'm sure these scenes happened, but how many times do you need to show that The Killer is just a crazy nobody.
The director, Andrew Piddington, chooses to use some experimental filmmaking techniques such as jump cuts and dream like sequences. I'm guessing he was trying to show inside the mind of The Killer and all its chaos. I think it works for this film. The Killer is crazy, so why not use that to mold the style of the film. Piddington also uses a fair amount of archival footage (pictures and videos) throughout the film. I'm not exactly sure how he managed to get the right to use pictures of Lennon, but he did it. I think that makes the film a little more legit. If I remember correctly Chapter 27 doesn't even use the real Double Fantasy album. The picture is of two actors, but this film even shows the real album (in a close-up).
The way the director chooses to shoot the murder is an interesting choice and much different than Chapter 27 (Very quickly shot and edited together). He goes the slow-motion route. The viewer literally sees the flesh being ripped apart from the bullets. You see Lennon shatter his recording tapes and stumble up the stairs. He falls like dead weight at the vestibule of the Dakota before being surrounded by a puddle of his own blood. His life quickly coming to an end on that cold December night.
It's not an extremely graphic scene, but it still gives you the chills a little. I think some people forget to realize that Lennon was shot at point blank range with a .38 caliber gun. It was a horrible way to die.
Towards the end of the film, there is a voiceover from The Killer that I did think worked well. To paraphrase, he says how Lennon had no father in his life. His mother died when he was 17. He was raised by his aunt. He had two sons (one who had very little relationship with him). Then, he was killed by him (The Killer). At 40 years old. This whole voiceover is being said over archival video of Lennon through the years. That's the saddest part of the film in my opinion. I know he's been dead for 27 years, but that is the moment when you realize that's all that's left of John Lennon. Fucking archives. It's bullshit.
The rest of the film shows an aftermath of the murder. The killer is arrested and pleads guilty. It ends saying that he has spent the rest of his life in a prison cell in Attica State Prison.
After watching both these films (Chapter 27 and The Killing of John Lennon), I didn't leave either one with any more answers than I already know. Maybe, I've read too much on John Lennon and his murder, so I've maxed out my knowledge. That's my big issue with both these films. Why glorify the subject if you aren't really going to contribute to it? Okay, so Lennon's killer was a psycho? Is that the message of the movies? Well, that's already common knowledge.
That's why if I really had to recommend either film I wouldn't. Not for the reason that I don't think they should make a film about John Lennon's murder, but both these films are mediocre and aren't worth your time. Believe me if people stopped talking about these films (i.e. Starting a boycott), then no one would ever waste their time. It's the word of mouth from people that is sparking interest and it really makes no sense.
Seriously, only watch this film if you are such a huge Lennon fan that you must see, read, listen, touch, or smell anything with his name on it. Otherwise, watch There Will Be Blood (FYC Best Picture 2007).
Note: If anyone has seen this and reads this post, I have a quick question. After The Killer shoots Lennon, does one of the doorman tell him to get out of here. I was watching this scene with my Mom and we both thought the doorman said it. That doesn't make any sense and I've never read anything about that.
Note 2: If you want another solid review on this film go check out Robert Rosen's blog, Chapter 27. He also wrote a really good book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. I've read it and highly recommend it. I've also had a chance to have an email correspondence with him and he seems like a nice guy.
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