Citizen X

Year 1995

Stephen Rea   as  Viktor Burakov  
Donald Sutherland   as Mikhail Fetisov
Max von Sydow as Dr. Alexandr Bukhanovsky  
Jeffrey DeMunn  as Andrei Chikatilo
Director - Chris Gerolmo
Screenwriter - Chris Gerolmo   

This made for cable movie, based on true events, is emotional.  The subject matter itself, the murder of dozens of children by one man, touches places that shouldn't be touched. This movie could have been an insult to memories. It isn't.

For a while, HBO made some really good movies and this was one of them.

The title character is Russia's first acknowledged serial killer.  The movie manages to successfully combine a number of elements.  Not only is there the killer and a bit of a psychological insight into his behavior, but there is Russian bureaucracy, the fall of Communism, the founding of the Russian serial killer forensic group, and the home life along with the wear and tear of the chief investigator.

It's haunting. 

This isn't a big budget adaptation.  It's definitely for the small screen.  Even the setting of Russia lends itself to a certain claustrophobia.

When the movie begins, the chief investigator Viktor Burakov (Stephen Rea) has recently taken over a forensics department in a town in Russia when he is presented with enough corpses to make him think that a serial killer is behind the deeds.  But he must fight Russian bureaucracy who believe that Russia cannot have such a creature; they only exist in the decadent West.  Also, he must not bother Communist Party members who could never be guilty.

Colonel Mikhail Fetisov (Donald Sutherland), a cold, calculating political game player, is Burakov's only ally and his boss.  Fetisov appoints Burakov to head up the "Killer Department" since "Serial Killer Department" would not meet with the Party's approval.

From that point begins a ten year struggle to find the killer.

Over the years, Burakov grows. From an emotional hot head, he becomes someone who can successfully work the system to his benefit.  Fetisov respects Burakov and needs his underling's approval to a point the he, too, evolves over time.  Another character, Dr. Alexandr Bukhanovsky (Max von Sydow) plays a small but crucial role as the man who risks his career by typing out a psychological profile of the killer, dubbed "Citizen X". 

Bukhanovsky also has one of the best lines in the film.  Seeing Fetisov and Burakov work together as a team, he quips, "The two of you together make one nice person."

The life of the killer, Communist Party member Andrei Chikatilo (Jeffrey DeMunn), is given insightful treatment and you almost feel for the character.  This is a tough thing to do considering that he killed fifty-two people, most of them under the age of seventeen. 

The writing is top notch, the direction is great, and there are no bad actors.  Watching this movie, I felt like I was watching the prototype for Martin Cruz Smith's detective Arkady Renko.  (If you haven't read "Gorky Park" and "Polar Star", treat yourself and do so.)

Citizen X is a depressing movie, but it's also an inspiration.  It shows that dedication and purpose can triumph over the worst evils and that allies can be found in the most unlikely places.  It also warns about the amoral purposes of bureaucracy (they exist to keep themselves in existence) which are not limited to Russian government agencies.

The movie keeps your intested and its poignancy will stay with you for days.

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