Plot: What’s it about?
In Russia, a serial killer stalks the streets and takes aim on young victims, having already racked up a massive body count over a span of several years. The victims are usually underage females who placed their trust in a stranger who in return raped, murdered, and mutilated them. Of course the public is in an uproar about the situation, but it seems as though the police force is baffled and is even sometimes restrained from taking action because of government policies. As the bodies continue to surface, sometimes in groups of several girls at a time, Colonel Fetisov (Donald Sutherland) decides to place Viktor Burakov (Stephen Rea) in charge of the investigation. While Burakov is an expert in the field of forensics, he knows little about detective work so he needs help in order to find a close to the case. In an effort to overcome the piles of government red tape and end the spree Burakov calls in a psychologist (Max Von Sydow), who seeks to create a profile that will lead the police to the killer. It seems like they might have a chance to find the killer at last, but can they find him before he kills again?
The above synopsis paints an eerie picture to be sure, but what makes it even more eerie is the fact that this is a true story. There really was a killer in Russia who preyed upon little girls and the government’s rules and red tape managed to buy him some more time to kill, though it wasn’t meant to happen in that fashion. This isn’t just the telling of a serial killer tale though, as this film also spins the story of how the government stood in the way of closing in on this killer at times, which is almost as depraved as the killer himself. I think this is one of the better serial killer flicks out there and while it doesn’t have the visceral traits we expect, it makes for that in several other ways. This is more of a suspense film than thriller, but there are some rather thrilling sequences to be sure. I am certain the “made for television” label will scare some folks off, but I can assure you this doesn’t resemble the typical direct to cable fare. The production values seem to be high and the acting/directing is excellent at all times. This is a very solid movie issued on a bare bones disc, so a rental will do for most though a purchase is in order for followers of the film.
This film was directed by Chris Gerolmo, who also penned the teleplay which was based on the novel “The Killer Department” by Robert Cullen. Gerolmo tackles some dark subject matter in this film and with his inexperience as a director, I am surprised at how well he handled the entire program. Gerolmo doesn’t shy away from the disturbing topics explored by any means, but he also makes sure to reveal just enough to keep it all in perspective. This could have easily become a simple slasher type flick, but Gerolmo makes sure it remains much more than that. All in all Gerolmo delivers an above average suspense movie with Citizen X and I hope to see more work from him in the future. If you want to see more of Gerolmo’s movies I recommend The Witness and Slay The Dreamer. This film has a terrific cast which features lead performances by Stephen Rea and Donald Sutherland. Rea (The Crying Game, Interview With The Vampire) gives his usual subtle but powerful turn while Sutherland (Animal House, Disclosure) turns in an amazing and memorable performance here. The supporting cast also includes Joss Ackland (Surviving Picasso, Mother’s Boys), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Hitcher, The Green Mile), John Wood (Sabrina (1995), Metroland), and the always excellent Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, Needful Things).
Video: How does it look?
Citizen X is presented in a full frame transfer, which retains the original aspect ratio of the film. This was a made for television movie, but the image looks much better than broadcast quality and the transfer makes sure it comes across well on this release. The colors are based on a more natural scope, but some bright hues still emerge and I detected no smears or bleeds at all. I was also pleased to find that flesh tones appear normal and very warm, with no discoloration I could notice. The contrast is excellent also, with complex shadows and no detail loss even in the darkest of scenes. I did take note of some minor edge enhancement and grain at times, but this is still an above average transfer in all respects.
Audio: How does it sound?
This film doesn’t have much in terms of audio power, but the included 2.0 surround mix creates a solid and immersive atmosphere, which surprised me with how good it sounds. You won’t find much as far as sound effects, but some outdoor sequences display excellent use of the surrounds. As such the surrounds kick in when they need to, but on the whole this is a more low key audio affair. The musical score is very good and this mix gives it a rich texture, which takes nice advantage of the surrounds at times. The dialogue is clean and clear also and I found no volume or separation problems. A mono Spanish track is also included as well as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains some extensive talent files, but no other bonus materials.