Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Film Review: Citizen X (1995)

Citizen X (Review)
United States/1995
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Prime Instant Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...a stupendously overlooked, masterfully crafted film."

The hunt for Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo (Jeffrey DeMunn).

Citizen X follows forensic specialist Viktor Burakov (Stephen Rea) who is promoted to detective and assigned to a serial murder case by Colonel Mikhail Fetisov. Due to the Soviet's ignorance and arrogance, as well as Fetisov's reluctance to openly aid, Burakov's investigation is constantly hindered. Meanwhile, Chikatilo viciously murders his victims one-by-one with little interference. A by-the-books yet immensely engaging investigative thriller, Citizen X leads to a superb ending. (okay, there is one glaring continuity error, but it's otherwise very satisfying and insightful.)

Citizen X plays it safe for the most part. It's not super stylish, ultra-violent, or filled with twists and turns. Regardless, the investigation is incredibly engaging. I always mention this with mystery films and I'll do it again: a decent mystery keeps your attention, a superb mystery has you with a notepad taking notes -- this is the latter, maybe not literally but figuratively. Furthermore, the story is down to Earth and honest. Everything feels grounded and realistic, which makes the story so much more haunting.

The story seems like an honest representation of the facts, which is also a big plus. I know it's not 100% accurate, but it's as close as it can get without sacrificing entertainment. Also, it's not a melodramatic or twist-filled thriller, as I previously mentioned. But, the honesty sinks further into the setting, as well. This subtle representation of the Soviet Union's ignorance and arrogance was also very interesting, and added to the tense atmosphere of the film. It's also seamless transitions as the investigation progresses into the 90s. If your skimming this review, let me get to the gist: Citizen X is a realistic investigative thriller with genuine tension throughout its entire runtime -- there isn't a single dull moment in this haunting film.

Stephen Rea is a great leading man, keeping his performance genuine and honest. Jeffrey DeMunn shares less screen time, but delivers an equally impressive performance; again, he feels like a sick and despicable person, but not a super villain or anything melodramatic. The film is beautifully shot, despite its horrendous subject. The music fits the fine of the film perfectly; I loved the soundtrack. I watched this film on Amazon Instant through the Prime service, and it's a great experience; this stream has great audio and is available in High Definition. Director Chris Gerolmo crafts a magnificent investigative thriller; it's perfectly paced and balanced, and builds a haunting atmosphere to harbor the disturbing story.

Overall, Citizen X is filmmaking at its finest. It's a stupendously overlooked, masterfully crafted film. This is a made-for-TV that sets the benchmark, a made-for-TV that bests some of Hollywood's greatest. In fact, and I may get some flack for this, Citizen X is a better film than The Silence of the Lambs -- it stands closer to Memories of Murder than anything else. I can't recommend this enough.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex.

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