Citizen X, a harrowing hunt for a serial killer, is proof that movies made for TV can be phenomenal. Yes, this is one of those movies with a cheap-looking cover and budget-vibe. And yes, there are some stupid elements in it (like the backwardness of the Soviet Union is exaggerated) but the rest is just perfect. First off, great cast, Stephen Rea and Donald Sutherland were excellent. And to sweeten the deal we have Max von Sydow. Based on the true story of Andrei Chikatilo, Citizen X provides you with the opportunity to see how serial killers operated in Russia. And more importantly, how the law enforcement tried to catch them.
Secondly, this is an HBO production, available for streaming and on Blu-Ray in highest possible quality. So, if you’re fearing that this is going to be another grainy tv flick from the nineties, I assure you it’s not. Thirdly, this is a very nuanced and slow paced movie with an unsettling atmosphere and gripping story. The real life almost always provides us with events that seem stranger than fiction.
Citizen X would be just another standard-issue serial killer flick, much like Drifter: Henry Lee Lucas, if the story was about a standard-issue serial killer. Andrei Chikatilo is nothing like that. He’s one of the most prolific, brutal, and sickening criminals of the twentieth century. The very fact that he operated in the Soviet Union, where such crime was deemed impossible by the state that controlled everything, is cause for interest. I will leave the link to his wiki page after the review, so you can read up on this asshole. The struggles detectives went through trying to catch him are almost unbelievable. The entire movie is actually quite difficult to watch as you try to comprehend the sorrow and sheer evil going on. You want to jump in the screen and save these innocent children from this monster.
As the machines are working on a small collective farm in the Soviet Union, they uncover something horrible. Eight bodies of various sizes in various stages of decomposition are discovered. And it’s immediately clear that this is going to be one hell of a case. Viktor Burakov, a forensic specialist working with the police department is determined to get to the bottom of it. However, the year is 1982 and the wheels of justice in the Soviet Union are turning really slowly. Meanwhile, the unknown killer is continuing his killing spree.
Because they wanted to stay true to the material and not make this movie into some spectacle, the cinematography will dazzle you only occasionally. For example, that opening scene was pretty heavy and you can clearly see that they are capable of creating excellent material. Based on Robert Cullen’s book The Killer Department, released in 1993, Citizen X features phenomenally written characters. They are deep and realistic, written in such a way that it enables us, the viewers, to analyze where things might have gone wrong and why some character is acting the way it is. This is especially true for Chikatilo, but I will that for you to discover.
Finally, we also get a glimpse into the life behind the Iron Curtain in the eighties. The infamous bureaucracy that’s stifling everything from ordinary life to murder investigations. And what to say about accepted pyramidal ruling structure apart to check out Chernobyl television series. And if you’re looking for more similar movies, the first one is The Gray Man and then you can check out our Rabbit Reviews selection of Serial Killer Movies.
Director: Chris Gerolmo
Writers: Robert Cullen, Chris Gerolmo
Wikipedia page: Andrei Chikatilo
Cast: Stephen Rea, Donald Sutherland, Max von Sydow, Jeffrey DeMunn, Joss Ackland, John Wood, Imelda Staunton, Ion Caramitru
Fun Facts: Never released theatrically, only on DVD after TV premiere.
IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112681/