Citizen X (1998) is a made-for-TV movie that tells the true story of the decade long hunt for Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, who by the end of his reign of terror had killed 52 women and children. A solid police procedural, Citizen X chronicles the difficulties of Russian forensics expert Burakov (Stephen Rhea) as he struggles to catch a killer.

During the supremacy of the Communist party in Russia, bureaucracy exists for no other reason than to perpetuate itself and the status quo. Instead of a police captain who provides the resources necessary to catch a killer, Burakov is instead given Fetisov(Donald Sutherland), his jaded superior who wants to do what is right but is forced to follow the guidelines of the Communist party. Instead of an active press who publish the story and demand action, Burakov is forced to face off with the Secretary of Ideology who proclaims "There are no serial killers in Russia. That is a Western decadence." And, instead of being allowed to implement proper investigative techniques, Burakov is given orders that he is to search for the killer among the "undesirable" elements of Soviet society.

All of this begins to take a toll on our hero, and we see him suffer through long nights, nightmares, psychological distress, and ridicule. Rhea does a stupendous job of showing us the depths of a man struggling to do the right thing in a society that would prefer him do the wrong thing. His doggedness in pursuing all the leads he can, in whatever way he can, leads him to do something entirely revolutionary - employ a psychiatrist to create one of the first modern day serial killer profiles - a technique now used by law enforcement agencies the world over.

In spite of the dark underpinings, there is a clear message of hope in the movie. As Burakov persists in his unrelenting pursuit of a child killer, those around him gradually lose their cynicism and begin to regain their humanity. The movie resolves with a very satisfying conclusion in which justice prevails, everyone gets their proper due, and the audience can do naught but cheer.

Category: Movie Review