Gangsters are ruthless, violent, and psychopathic human beings. If there's one thing Martin Scorsese loves is to explore the depths of the worst in humanity and the effect on the innocents around them. For Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese reteams with his two top leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro with Lily Gladstone to deliver a devastating account of true events surrounding a series of brutal murders of Osage people during the 1920s oil rush. Only the film's extensive runtime often distracts from rather than draws you into an arresting story of greed and murder. Worth A Look
Out in theaters now, coming soon to Apple TV+
Killers of the Flower Moon is based on the book of the same name by David Grann and is a prequel to the Ernest franchise that should’ve been titled “Ernest Goes To Osage Country”. Leo DiCaprio plays a a bumbling man named Ernest whom Scorsese didn’t have the common courtesy to give him the P. Worrell last name.
All jokes aside, Killers of the Flower Moon is a true-life story based on real people who were murdered for their land that had tons of oil underneath it, which ultimately gave birth to the Federal Bureau of Investigations otherwise known as the FBI. It's a story as old as time and has been told numerous ways by Scorsese himself in his other movies. DiCpario is a fumbling young man who has come back to town to see his Uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) to help him run his cattle ranch in Oklahoma. But if Goodfellas, The Sopranos, and Casino taught an audience anything, it's that underneath the surface business, there is something much more sinister going on. As the screenplay furthers itself, it's revealed that Hale is secretly killing these Native Americans in order to steal their land and fortunes with the help of his nephew Ernest.
Running at 3.5 hours long, every minute is slowly felt as Scorsese explores the same organized crime genre where all involved eventually turn on each other and rat out everyone - but this time in the early 1920s. A good 60 minutes could’ve been left out where the same outcome could’ve been better executed instead of showcasing a replicating narrative featuring a dozen or more full-length funerals or people getting sick. It becomes a bit tedious at times, but it's also remarkable that Scorsese is still able to create this world and showcase those intimate details of what life was like more than 100 years ago. Those intense conversations and brutal treatment of the Osage are depicted in a raw yet artistic manner.
There's something to say that over the past fifty years, Scorsese can still tell a wonderfully complex narrative that navigates a violent web of many characters in the same mafioso arena and has it still feel original and poignant. This is the case with Killers of the Flower Moon, however, it's the 3.5 hours that kills the mood and flow of the film. For some reason, filmmakers think it's a good idea to drag out their movies for the longest possible runtime these days. And not one film executive or producer can say "No" to these artists. Other filmmakers have fallen into this trap of overtly long films or only showcasing their visual aesthetic without care for character development or pacing no matter the run time. And now sadly, Scorsese has as well.
There are some brilliant moments in Killers of the Flower Moon though. Mostly through Leo and De Niro's performances. They are simply phenomenal. The contrast between DiCaprio's love for his wife and what he must work at to make his uncle happy is nothing short of award-worthy. His candor and body language transform him into this character just as he has in every role before. De Niro even in his golden years still proves he's one of the best at his craft leaving the cheap comedy family movies but a distant memory by the third minute of this film. Lily Gladstone is the bright shining star here. She is put through the physical and mental wringer and comes out on top which will no doubt earn her the top award and she will deserve it all.
Brendan Fraser and Jack White of the White Stripes have less than two minutes of screen time as do a cavalcade of other actors and directors here with Fraser landing in an over-the-top cartoonish way that is very welcome later in the third act giving the film some new life. Fraser gets top billing in the promos and poster for the film, but to have him only show up in the final moments of the movie feels like a slight, especially since his character is a welcomed addition. That's the case with most of the characters except with the top three actors. Scorsese still proves he's no slouch in cinema, but at some point, someone somewhere is going to have to edit him because Killers of the Flower Moon plays dead for a good hour, if not more, before it ratchets up the palpable cinematic excitement again. Not one of his 10 best but still Worth A Look.