At once a mainstream and experimental film, The Killing of John Lennon traps itself (and the audience) inside the warped psyche of culture-assassin Mark David Chapman, keeping the camera on him pretty much from start to credits. Only his on-the-record words are used as dialogue, as his aimless obsession with outing 'phoneys' and seeking notoriety leads him all the way from Honolulu, Hawaii to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where he will collide with history by blowing away John Lennon. Making Chapman interesting proves to be a tall order, since his murder of Lennon is generally accepted as having no political or other external motivation -- only the motivation derived from his own diseased mind. Is watching a crazy person rant and rave entertaining? Sure, it can be, but The Killing of John Lennon is only marginally entertaining, dragging on too long for its own good and continuing past the logical stopping point -- the killing -- and moving into Chapman's introduction to prison life, where his only joy will be playing pointless cat-and-mouse games with his analysts.
As played by newcomer Jonas Ball, Chapman is a highly functioning sociopath who see-saws back and forth between lucid, on-point observations and hateful, juvenile blather about feeling betrayed. Early on he says: "I don't think one should devote oneself to morbid self-attention. One should try to be a person like other people." Then, presumably with mental illness creeping in, he ignores his own advice and begins to vocalize a childish hatred of Lennon derived from a selective reading of his song lyrics. "He told us to imagine no possessions -- but he has yachts and country estates," he says, not bothering to take this internal debate any further before condemning Lennon to death. Chapman's mind eventually focuses on Salinger's infamous book The Catcher in the Rye, engaging with it almost like Jim Carrey in The Number 23 -- as if the book was written specifically with him in mind, and acting out its plot in the real world will somehow unlock some higher plane of reality. In other words, Chapman is a nut who wasn't diagnosed before he was allowed to act out.