Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney have often asked that we do not name John Lennon’s killer. They reasoned that we should not reward Mark David Chapman, nor grant him the fame and notoriety he sought from that heinous act. There have been many films and books about John Lennon’s murder over the years. The latest, Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of the Man who Killed John Lennon is one salacious and icky offering.
The year 2020 marked two significant anniversaries. It would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday. It also marked 40 years since the legend was so brutally gunned down at the Dakota Building in New York City. The film’s director, Bill Badgley, sought to make sense of this senseless act by examining Chapman’s life in detail. The result is painful and uncomfortable viewing.
Among the Lennon biographers and media commentators interviewed here is photographer, Bob Gruen, who was Lennon’s former friend. But it is journalist, Jack Jones who plays the biggest role here. He offers up 82 hours of interviews with Chapman and the killer’s loyal wife, Gloria Abe. They have all had a decades-long friendship and Jones previously wrote and published a biography about Chapman.
The film attempts to draw a sensitive tone but there are times where it really misses the mark. Chapman’s moves are recreated by an actor. There is a scene where Lennon’s final moments on a hospital gurney are described in such undignified and unnecessary detail. The filmmaker also draws tenuous links between Lennon’s tough upbringing (including the passing of Lennon’s mother, Julia) and Chapman’s abuse at his own father’s hands. Parallels are also drawn between Lennon’s romanticism and Chapman’s insane fixations. This is so bizarre and something that Lennon’s fans will find hard to swallow.
The simple fact is that Chapman is a paranoid and delusional narcissist. Jones takes a sympathetic tone with him, claiming that Chapman is now remorseful and would have been paroled if he’d targeted any other victim. As it turns out, Chapman had other famous celebrities on his hit list. Chapman is mentally ill and hears voices and while that could be worthy of some empathy, it’s hard to feel for him when he gloats that he “May not have changed the world, but stopped it for three days.” This is so brutal and shocking.
Let Me Take You Down is a ghoulish film that tries to get inside the mind and motivations of Lennon’s killer. There aren’t many answers and if anything, this proves that the public’s penchant for true crime has gone a step too far. This documentary ultimately feels like an airing of the dirtiest laundry you could possibly imagine.
REVIEW SCORE: HALF A STAR (OUT OF FIVE).
Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of the man who killed John Lennon can be streamed on demand now and airs on Fox Showcase on January 12.