Chapter 27


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Chapter 27 is a docudrama which recreates Mark David Chapman's final 3-day vigil at the Dakota apartment building in New York, which led ultimately to his assassination of John Lennon. The title refers to the fact that Chapman identified strongly with Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of Catcher in the Rye, which has 26 chapters. By extension, his own life was the unwritten 27th chapter.

It offers very little back story or character development and very little insight into Chapman's motivations. It's narrated by Chapman, and the choice of a first-person point of view allows us to experience what went through his mind, but the inherent nature of a first person narration done by a crazy man limits the ability of the filmmaker to present any objective analysis, or even to establish his own viewpoint. Thus we know WHAT Chapman was thinking, but not WHY. Ultimately that makes the film uninformative. At the end of the story, I could form only the extremely general hypothesis that the murder occurred solely because Chapman's head was messed-up, but that was the one and only thing I had actually remembered about the case before I started watching the film. The lack of insight leads one to wonder why the film was made to begin with.

The film's redeeming factor is an interesting performance from Jared Leto, who apparently attended the Christian Bale / Robert De Niro academy of gimmicky weight changes, and managed to put on some seventy pounds of flab in order to duplicate Chapman's appearance to near perfection. He also did a good job of mimicking Chapman's whispery voice and soft Georgia accent. Leto might have received serious Oscar consideration, as excellent impersonations often do, if the script had been a good one.

It isn't. In addition to being uninformative, the film is also boring.

Based on the films about Chapman and other similar individuals, I've formed the opinion that frustrated, mentally disturbed loners are not particularly fascinating subjects for films, even though their actions arouse our curiosity. If they were such interesting people, after all, they would be surrounded by scores of friends and/or hangers-on, and would therefore be, by definition, not alone and alienated to begin with. The same qualities which make them unappealing to society also make them inherently unappealing to film audiences who, after all, form a reasonably representative sample of society.

Boring, unappealing, and uninformative ... not much of a recommendation, is it? If Dean Wormer had been the dean of a film school, he would have counseled against those three things instead of "fat, drunk, and stupid." After all, fat, drunk and stupid people sometimes make interesting films, as we know from Guillermo del Toro, Richard Harris, and Michael Moore, but boring, unappealing, and uninformative people probably should not be in the entertainment business, although Lord knows they sometimes manage somehow to slip through the cracks, as demonstrated by the career of Rosie O'Donnell.

How limited is the film's appeal? Well, the distro offers some damning evidence. Chapter 27 features a Leto performance that might ordinarily be considered Oscar-worthy, and it also features tabloid favorite Lindsay Lohan in a small role. You would think that those elements alone would guarantee fairly wide distribution during the annual December effort to push prestige pictures into some theaters to establish Oscar eligibility. Never happened. Lensed in 2006 and screened the following year at Sundance, the film was ignored in December of 2007, then released in the spring of 2008, premiering in a single location, never reaching more than eleven screens. It grossed a total of $56,000 in the entire United States. There are many reviews at Rotten Tomatoes (only 20% of them positive), but that fact is not indicative of a wide theatrical presence. Most of those analyses were filed long before the theatrical release, in response to the Sundance screening.

Is it a bad film? No. "Bad" would not be a fair characterization. The 5.6 score at IMDb gives just about the right impression. It features professional production values and an ambitious performance. The problem is that the film's professionalism is not enough to make it worth an investment of your time, because the assets can't overcome a script which ultimately has absolutely nothing to say, and manages to say nothing tediously.

I did get one good thing from the film. It motivated me to read Chapman's entry at the Crime Library, which is far more interesting, informative, and thorough than this movie.


* widescreen anamorphic

* features not yet announced







20 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
32 (of 100)


5.6 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It grossed a whopping $56,000.



  • The nudity (t&a) comes from Jeane Fournier as a hooker hired by Chapman the evening before the murder. (Based on the article at the Crime Library, this incident seems to have been somewhat misrepresented in the film.)


Weird Trivia

A man named Mark Chapman assassinated John Lennon. In the film, another man named Mark Chapman PLAYED John Lennon.


Historical info:


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Competent filmmaking, but not necessarily worthwhile. I was interested in the subject but was still left cold by the movie.