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by Scott Weinberg

"Malcolm McDowell as a raving psycho? Cool."
3 stars

So-so psycho-drama, but I was happy just to watch Malcolm McDowell go insane for two hours.

Years ago, when HBO was dishing out original movies that were just fantastic (get your hands on the James Woods flick Indictment or Gary Sinise's performance in Truman if you can), I was sitting home, bored and looking for a movie to watch. The Preview Guide informed me that something called Citizen X was about to begin.

Two hours later I had a new answer to the question "What's the best made-for-cable movie you've ever seen?"

Starring Donald Sutherland, Stephen Rea, Max von Sydow, and Jeffrey DeMunn, Citizen X told the harsh and frustrating story of how Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo evaded capture for several years -- while slaughtering more than 50 women and children in the process. I was hypnotized by Citizen X, partially because I'd never heard this story before, but also because the film was written and directed with such grim intensity and unflinching sincerity. (Plus it's got such a phenomenal cast.)

So now it's about 10 years later and up pops another movie about the evil exploits of comrade Chikatilo ... only it's been infused with a frankly unnecessary jolt of "fictionalization," which explains why the killer is now known as Andrei Romanovic Evilenko. What's annoyingly ironic here is that while Chris Geralmo's Citizen X was a cable movie that seemed more suited to the inside of a movie theater, first-time director Chris Grieco's Evilenko is an arthouse indie that feels like it'd be more comfortable premiering on cable television.

By adding an air of fiction to an already more-than-fascinating true story, Grieco manages to shoot himself in the foot a few times. Several dialogue scenes are packed with unconvincing conversations, obvious pieces of foreshadowing, and even a few moments of laughable material. When Evilenko stays focused on the killer himself, or the comparisons made between his descent into madness and the slow destruction of his beloved communist regime, Evilenko works just fine.

But when the thing gets stuck firmly in the mode of "police procedural," the wheels begin to spin and Evilenko threatens to careen right into an overpopulated section of Dullsville.

Fortunately for Mr. Grieco, he was able to tag legendary character actor Malcolm McDowell to play his harrowing villain. Between his seminal performance in A Clockwork Orange and today, Mr. McDowell has continued to pop up in movies both excellent and atrocious, but damn if the guy's not always a lot of fun to watch. And the actor gives one of his best performances in years in Evilenko.

While certainly not an awful piece of fictionalized biopic-ery, Evilenko suffers from a few too many dry spots over the course of its 111 minutes. The more flaccid sections manage to drag the flick down on an intermittent basis, but the truth behind this story does manage to shine through often enough to warrant a mild (if somewhat unenthusiastic) recommendation ... provided that serial killer exposés are your cup of tea. Heck, I'd say it's worth seeing just for McDowell's performance alone -- but be prepared for a few first-time missteps and an irritating affinity for focusing on the drier sides of the story.

By "fictionalizing" a factual story that didn't really scream for any alterations, Mr. Grieco has managed to jam a whole lot of conventional ideas and overbaked dialogue into his movie. Why he chose to augment the facts for his book and subsequent movie is anybody's guess, but if you're a fan of true-life crime stories (and you don't mind a bunch of seemingly arbitrary changes), odds are you'll find just enough in Evilenko to keep yourself entertained.

(© Review reprinted from DVDTalk, with permission from the author (me) and the DVDT management. For the full DVD specs on this particular movie, please visit www.DVDTalk.com and get friendly with the search bar.)

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11862&reviewer=128
originally posted: 02/18/06 16:03:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/12/06 Charles J Chase Crashing bore - Malcolm McDowell used to be a big actor - it's a shame to see him have to t 2 stars
3/30/06 Soha Molina good movie 4 stars
3/30/06 Elisa G. Malcolm is mental. 3 stars
9/07/05 mic [ k ] silent crimes unhuman story produced & acted 100% q is he still alive 5 stars
7/04/05 James Sarowski One hell of a movie.Couldnt sit on my butt for a min Actualy names arent real but story is 5 stars
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  07-Feb-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 07-Feb-2006



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