Citizen X is a 1995 movie made for HBO about a true-life serial killer in the former USSR. The story begins when the body of one of his victims is found on a farm. The local forensic specialist has the cops search the area and over a dozen more bodies are found, much to everyone’s surprise.

You’re really still working 25 years from now?

Being the Soviet Union, getting the power and resources to solve the case becomes an epic lesson in frustration and bureaucracy. The forensic ‘tec, Burakov, is played by Stephen Rea. His immediate boss is played by Donald Sutherland. Together they work the system to try to get something accomplished.

Citizen X poster

Meanwhile, the killer Chikatilo continues to murder, rape, and mutilate his victims, usually children. Chikatilo is exactly like you would expect, a very sick puppy who is constantly abused and berated at his work and by his wife. Sexually frustrated in the extreme, and a born loser, he takes out his frustration and fantasies on the local population of children, drifters, and the mentally slow that he picks up at the various local train stations.

The movie progresses from 1982 all the way up into the early 1990s. By the fall of the USSR some leeway opens up and Burakov is allowed to contact the top men at the FBI for some assistance. He also brings in a Soviet head shrink, played by the always excellent Max Von Sydow. Once the three men are given a more free hand Burakov develops a plan to catch the killer, and it pays off.

We follow the investigators and the killer for about a decade. Stephen Rhea does such a good job playing Burakov that you wonder how the real guy made it through to the endof these events while keeping his sanity.  The film version of Burakov even breaks down at one point from the stress. He is sent off for a vacation at the shrink’s clinic to help him pull himself back together.  The man exudes pure black-pilled mental agony as he sees more and more dead kids turn up in the woods. Meanwhile, he has nothing to go on for years.

Jeffrey DeMunn plays the disgustingly insane and wild-eyed Kommrade Chikatilo. I first saw the film when it came out and every time I see DeMunn in anything else, I always think of him as the Soviet killer Chikatilo. He is great.

Back in the USSR… you don’t know how dead you are, girl…

The film is a great Commie cop procedural and a thriller. Not only do you get a great detective story, but you also get to see the usual failures of the Communist system back in the day.  A great double feature to watch with Chernobyl.

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