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When an actor undergoes some dramatic physical transformation for a role, it's usually supposed to mean an Oscar-worthy, groundbreaking performance. Take Robert De Niro's whirlwind turn in Raging Bull, for instance, where he bulked up and slimmed down to play boxer Jake LaMotta. For the role of Chapman, Leto gained some 60 pounds and became almost unrecognizable, developing a case of gout in the process. But simply putting on weight by gulping down liquified ice cream is not enough to get into character here. In addition to his physical disposition, throughout the film Leto seems to be attempting to channel De Niro in other ways as well. His creepy Southern drawl, often in voiceover, is like a bad Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) impersonation, as is a scene in which he talks to a mirror in a hotel room while repeatedly whipping out his gun as practice. This voiceover is employed frequently throughout Chapter 27, with overlapping dialogue that is meant to indicate Chapman's deepening descent into madness. Along the way, he befriends and then creeps out Lindsay Lohan, who emerged from rehab long enough to play a fellow Lennon fan named Jude. Yes, Jude. Lohan is unremarkable but inoffensive in this minor role. Better is Judah Friedlander as Paul (yes, Paul), a photographer staking out the Dakota building, Lennon's residence, in the hopes of snapping a shot of Lennon arriving or leaving his home.
The film seems to suggest that Chapman's rejection by these two minor characters played at least some part in his ultimate decision to kill Lennon, although he is clearly insane from the get-go. Chapman is haunted by the filth of New York City and the YMCA he initially arrives at (again, shades of Bickle), but almost gives up on his plan to kill Lennon at the last moment. Of course, we all know how events turned out. The one thing that the film ultimately does right is to avoid going overboard on the actual shooting, taking an indirect approach rather than going for the low hanging fruit of a graphic execution. The murder takes place just off camera, the sequence instead lingering on Leto's face, both satisfied and horrified by his act, only a scream lingering in the ears of the audience. Fortunately, Chapter 27 is only 85 minutes long, which in actuality is somewhat of a feat considering the simple nature of Chapman and Lennon's murder. In the brief time it plays out on screen, though, one can't help but wish more thought had been put into the story and into the portrayal of Chapman, one of the most morbid and notorious footnotes in the history of pop culture iconography. SEE ALSO: www.boycottchapter27.org
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
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