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Movies & TV

25th Jun 2024

Brilliant crime thriller movie about shocking real-life serial killer streaming now

Stephen Porzio

Featuring an Irish acting titan in the lead role, it’s a true underseen gem.

Citizen X, a brilliant underseen crime thriller based on a shocking true story, has been made available to stream on Sky Atlantic and NOW Entertainment.

Released as a TV movie by HBO back in 1995, it tells the story of real-life Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo (played by Jeffrey DeMunn, The Walking Dead), who murdered at least 52 women and children between 1978 and 1990.

The film details the investigation into Chikatilo’s murders from the perspective of a methodical forensic specialist named Viktor Burakov (Irish actor Stephen Rea, The Crying Game), who is promoted to detective in order to find the killer.

However, Soviet bureaucracy obstructs him at every turn, with many of superiors (including one played by Joss Ackland, White Mischief) believing that a serial killer in the Soviet Union was impossible – calling such a thing a “decadent Western phenomenon”.

“Burakov is determined to catch Chikatilo, aided only by his one sympathetic if cynical superior (the late and great Donald Sutherland, Don’t Look Now) and a frightened but determined psychiatrist (Max von Sydow, The Exorcist),” the plot synopsis reads.

Incredibly effective as both as a gripping true crime thriller and a cautionary tale of how bureaucracy can get in the way of good police work, Citizen X also benefits from a great script and flawless acting across the board.

In particular, Rea is so likeable and subtly effective in showing how his prolonged work on the case begins to take a toll on his mental health and puts a strain on his marriage to his wife (played by Imelda Staunton, The Crown).

Sutherland is also excellent, beginning the movie appearing stoic and apathetic before gradually revealing a more caring and deeper side – which is brought out by his character bearing witness to Burakov’s relentless pursuit.

Holding an 86% score on Rotten Tomatoes, here is a sample of some positive reviews for Citizen X:

Bloody Disgusting: “Citizen X is one of the most underrated serial killer movies ever made.” “Fascinating and absorbing. One of HBO’s finest made-for-cable flicks.”

Los Angeles Times: “Despite its sinister heart, Citizen X is especially arresting when aiming wry humour at the decadence of the cadaverous Soviet system that mires Burakov’s investigation in red tape.”

The New York Times: “Citizen X… is studded with fine performances. Mr. Rea pieces together a searing portrait of the quiet detective whose obsession with the case threatens nervous collapse.”

Citizen X is streaming now in Ireland and the UK via Sky Atlantic and NOW Entertainment. US readers can watch it on Max.

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