Evilenko (2004)
By: Julian on August 26, 2009  | 
21st Century Pictures (Australia), Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English Dolby 2.0. 107 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: David Grieco
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Marton Csokas, Ronald Pickup, Frances Barber, John Benfield
Screenplay: David Grieco
Country: Italy
External Links
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This is definitely a classic Malcolm McDowell psychopath role that ranks among his best, alongside Alex DeLarge, Caligula and Gangster 55. McDowell, one of the most underrated character actors around, plays Andrei Evilenko, a mass murderer/paedophile based loosely on the Butcher of Rostov, Andrei Chikatilo, whose reign of terror across the USSR spanned two decades before he was convicted and executed for the murders of 52 women and children.

Andrei Evilenko is a primary school teacher in Kiev who is thoroughly hated by his colleagues and not taken seriously by his students. Evilenko is a staunch Communist, whose sociopolitical ideologies extend as far as confiscating a soccer ball from one of his pupils then giving him a lecture on public ownership when the student protests that the ball is his. During class, Evilenko observes one of his students, a girl of about nine or ten, lifting her dress to expose herself to a male student. When class is dismissed, Evilenko keeps the girl behind, confronting her about her behaviour. He asks her to touch him; she refuses and laughs when an impotent Evilenko tries to arouse himself. Evilenko throws the girl on the desk and attempts to rape her but she escapes, badly scratching his arm.

The next day the school principal hears the girl's allegations and Evilenko denies it all. The principal says to Evilenko that he won't report him, but he is required to resign. When Evilenko returns home, he tells his wife that the centre-right leaning school suspended him for his Communist beliefs and after some time, he's recruited for a position in Moscow. Evilenko's first murder is incredibly vicious and his crimes escalate in brutality while he's in Moscow, becoming increasingly sexualised in nature. A task force is created, headed by Detective Lesiev and Aron Richter, a psychiatric analyst and once-accused child sex offender initially interviewed in relation to the crimes.

Evilenko was written and directed by Roman actor and journalist David Grieco, from his novel The Communist Who Ate Children. A lot of criticism has stemmed from Grieco's handling of the true story of Chikatilo, but it's important to note that both the film and the book were works of fiction based around the real-life murders. According to Grieco, a number of producers in Europe and the US had approached him to buy the rights of The Communist Who Ate Children, but he feared that the story would be turned into typical Hollywood serial killer fare. Instead, Grieco was interested in investigating "the paradox of monstrosity in such a well-read man", as opposed to the crimes themselves.

Grieco falls short of the mark in a number of respects – firstly, his exploration of "the paradox of monstrosity" was pretty much confined to Evilenko not being able to get it up, and his violent anathema towards anything that even remotely questioned Communism. There's a bit of 'Reds under the beds' paranoia injected into this, with a few references that Evilenko's disenfranchised hardline Communist stance precipitated his rampage. Evilenko is easily subdued by Lesiev addressing him as "Comrade", he becomes irate during police questioning when he discovers his interviewer is blasé about the USSR's crumbling political psyche and his bitterness towards life in general is furthered by his hatred for his long dead father, an anti-Communist who died in the gulags. Grieco's dialogue is consistently poor, with some almost embarrassing exchanges between Lesiev and Richter, with every cliché being recycled.

The acting is pretty ordinary by the two major supporting players, Kiwi actor Marton Csokas (who played Celeborn in the Lord of the Rings films and is slated to have a role in Tim Burton's upcoming Alice in Wonderland) and Ronald Pickup as Lesiev and Richter respectively, but McDowell is brilliant. He lays some of the physical tics on a bit thick (the nervous overbite as pervasive as Ledger's lip-licking Joker), but McDowell channels Evilenko's pure evil with a jolting ease.

The parallels between Evilenko and Chikatilo are reasonably sparse, restricted mainly to the type of victims and nature of deaths, and the death toll itself. After he was found guilty by a Russian court in 1992, Chikatilo voiced a number of his motives for the murders, some of which were explored to varying degrees in Evilenko (a notable, and significant, omission was Chikatilo's childhood experiences). However again, Grieco doesn't claim his film is based strictly on Chikatilo's life, and for those interested in a more accurate portrayal, the made-for-TV movie Citizen X with Donald Sutherland, Stephen Rea and Max von Sydow would be worth checking out.

David Grieco has made an average psychological thriller with Evilenko that resembles little more than a made-for-TV exploitationer. The script is pretty poor and the direction unexceptional. It briefly engages some interesting themes, particularly the political ones, and tackles some unusually aberrant subject matter, but the only thing that really prevents Evilenko from being totally unremarkable is McDowell – he's a brilliant actor, and it's a crime against cinema that he's so underused and under-appreciated.
Picture's presented in 1.78:1, with 16:9 enhancement. It's not particularly good quality, with little sharpness to the picture.
One viable English audio track in Dolby 2.0.
Extra Features
Nothing. Fans are best to look to Region 1, which has an 87-minute set of cast and crew interviews, and a 27-minute profile on Andrei Chikatilo.
The Verdict
It's probably most accurate to say that Evilenko is a film that "has its moments" – most of which are firmly centred around McDowell's powerhouse performance as Grieco's "paradoxical" well-read, highly intelligent and highly insane serial murderer. Worth watching on that merit alone.
Movie Score
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