Take a Drink: any time bureaucracy stands in the way of solving the murders
Take Another Drink: when that same bureaucracy directly results in another murder
Do a Shot: whenever there is a jump in time
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
In the Soviet Union during the early 1980s a dead child is found in the woods. Further search of the area uncovers eight additional bodies. Forensic scientist Viktor Burakov (Stephen Rea) is put in charge of the investigation, despite having had no experience as a detective. As Viktor’s work progresses, he encounters barriers in the form of the local Soviet leadership, who are more interested in their own advancement within the party than with actually solving the crimes. Viktor has to make constant and increasingly fruitless reports to a board of party members, and finds his job heavily micromanaged. Party member Bondarchuk (Joss Ackland) is particularly vociferous in his protests at any requests for additional help.
Local military commander Colonel Mikhail Fetisov (Donald Sutherland) befriends him, helping when he can to support the investigation. As the years pass, more and more bodies are discovered. Finally the 1990s bring forth a changing of the guard politically, and as the Iron Curtain falls, the first real resources are allotted to the investigation. When all is said and done, more than 50 deaths are tallied.
Director/Writer Chris Gerolmo is best known for his screenplay for Mississippi Burning. But Citizen X is no less fascinating a film. Perhaps the fact that Citizen X was made for HBO television accounts for the relative obscurity of the movie. Stephen Rea delivers a deeply emotional performance as the investigator Viktor, whose drive and compassion move the case forward, even in spite of the numerous roadblocks put in place by his superiors.
Viktor is driven to the brink of his own sanity, with each additional death being another twist of the knife in his soul. Donald Sutherland is dependably deft as Viktor’s only real ally in Soviet leadership, helping him navigate the travails of Soviet bureaucracy, while still getting the job done.
Killer Andrei Chikatilo is played by Jeffrey DeMunn, who totally disappears into the role. DeMunn recently gained notoriety on The Walking Dead as the character “Dale”, whose sense of right and wrong is the polar opposite of what is seen in Citizen X.
Max Von Sydow makes a serious impression in his role as a psychiatrist who wrote a profile of the killer, and later helps obtain a confession from Chikatilo
Citizen X has a great deal going for it in terms of performances and character development, however the film’s story arc boils down quite simply into a detective procedural. Fans of the genre will find much to appreciate, but little innovation. That said, the Soviet setting and politically-charged backdrop of the case makes it feel fresh enough to recommend.
With stellar performances and a compelling story to tell, Citizen X is a fascinating mystery, but above all, a solid drama.