Film: Citizen X
Director: Chris Gerolmo
Writer: Chris Gerolmo
Starring: Stephen Rea, Donald Sutherland and Max von Sydow
This film begins by informing us that it is based on a true story and that it takes play in the Soviet Union back in 1982. We are in a field, where a farmer is cutting grass and we find a dead body looking up at the blade.
We then meet a forensic expert who works as a coroner, played by Stephen Rea. The body is brought in by a police officer. Rea asks if the woods were searched near the body, because he feels she was not killed where she was found. The cop informs him that they did not. He is sent back out. Later that day, more bodies are brought in.
A committee is formed to oversee this investigation. It is led by Donald Sutherland, who is a colonel. Also sitting on it are Joss Ackland and John Wood. We see that being a communist state, it is going to be a much more difficult investigation as they interfere throughout the film. It is then revealed that Rea is going to be the detective in charge of this case.
The problem with this is that he is not a trained police officer. He starts his investigation by identifying the bodies and while doing this, he catches his first break. He realizes that the victims all ride the trains. He tries to bring this information to committee, as well as asking for more men, to make the awareness known, and to speak to the FBI about how to investigate something like this, but he is turned down. Ackland doesn’t believe it is one man, he believes it to be two or even a gang. He also feels that the Soviet Union could not have a serial killer as this is a western concept. His wife can even see that he is not thrilled about his promotion; she is played by Imelda Staunton.
We then meet the killer. He is played by Jeffrey DeMunn. He is married with children. We see him pick up a victim and stab them in the woods. He doesn’t just stab them though. He mutilates the genitalia, especially on his male victims when he removes it all together.
The first people that are targeted for the investigation are doctors and homosexuals. The latter mostly due to the fact that it was not accepted and they could embarrass them. Rea starts to sit in the different train stations, looking for the killer.
The first suspect is a gypsy who is not all there mentally. He is being coached at every turn by the police and a murder is committed while he is in custody. Ackland believes that the gypsy is part of the gang doing this, while Rea doesn’t think he is involved at all.
One day he sees DeMunn. He keeps his eye on him for awhile and then finally approaches him. Inside of his bag, he finds a knife and rope. DeMunn is brought in for questioning. Rea feels that DeMunn could be the man doing this, but DNA comes back that the semen found on a victim does not match his blood type. Ackland is irate because DeMunn is also part of the communist party and wants him to be released immediately.
This investigation begins to weigh more and more on Rea who finally cracks. Ackland calls for him to be replaced, but Sutherland feels that he is the right man for this position. Rea is forced to take a vacation though and spend time with his family. The killings do not stop.
The film also shows us the decline of the Soviet Union and the relaxing of rules that are stopping Rea. Rea also seeks out the aid of a doctor, played by Max von Sydow, who writes up a report about what he thinks the killer would be like. Can Rea finally stop this killer? Or will DeMunn kill until he passes away?
I have to say that coming into this film; I didn’t know anything about it. It sounded good and I am glad that I watched it. I thought that acting was great. I was impressed with Rea most of all though. He has a tough role to play. He has to ‘fake it’ and learn on the fly to be a detective. We learn near the end that in America it is mandatory for police officers who work murders to go do something else after a certain amount of time, because of the stress it puts on you. Rea’s character followed this case for 8 years. I loved that the film really showed bureaucracy of a communist state and that it really hindered this investigation. It is also crazy how many victims DeMunn’s character claimed and for how long he did it.
Now since this is based on a true story, I do have a bit of an issue that the committee formed to oversee the investigation was not real. That was done in the film to show how the government hindered the investigation in a quicker way. I will not hold too much against the film for that. Also as much as I liked Rea’s character, he doesn’t show much in the emotions department. I also think I would have liked to see more of the DeMunn character in his day to day life. I think this would have humanized a little bit more and it would make his crimes even more heinous.
I am adding this to the horror film research due to the fact that this was the Soviet Union’s most prolific serial killer. The things he did to his victims were brutal and he did it for so long. That is a scary thing and he may have continued on if the government hadn’t started to fall apart. I also add this for the psychological torment that Rea’s character dealt with in trying to solve this case.
Now with that said, I would highly recommend viewing this film. This is actually a made for television film, but this maybe one of the best I have ever seen in that format. The acting is great; the story is good and progresses nicely. It is great to see the nature of DeMunn’s character opposed to what he does. I also really like seeing Rea’s character’s torment in working this case. Some aspects or changed for the film, but for the most part you are getting the true story of this case. This film is very well done.
My Rating: 8 out of 10