KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON review by Mark Walters – Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese deliver a new epic

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON review by Mark Walters – Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese deliver a new epic

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have delivered some pretty iconic films together, and their newest collaboration will likely go down in history as another cinematic masterpiece. Based on the David Grann book of the same name, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON tells the story of The Reign of Terror that took place in Oklahoma in the 1920s and greatly affected the Osage Nation. DiCaprio stars with another Scorsese regular, Robert De Niro, and the cast also features newcomer Lily Gladstone in a central role, telling the story of an important and haunting time of America’s history.

Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) returns to his Oklahoma family town after his time in the war, and is welcomed home by his uncle William Hale (De Niro), who educates him on the land around them, owned and controlled by members of the Osage Nation, is rich with oil. It’s explained that many of the white men in the area are courting the Osage women to be their wives, so that they can ultimately inherit their land and wealth should anything happen to them. But these women end up dying suddenly and sometimes mysteriously, in record numbers, and the Osage people feel helpless to stop it. Ernest meets Mollie (Gladstone), an Osage woman who in one of multiple sisters in the area, and the two form a seemingly loving relationship. But as Mollie’s family begins dying off from strange circumstances, she wonders if Ernest truly loves her, or is yet another case of the white man seeking to steal her family’s fortune.

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON runs almost three and half hours, yet there’s no point in the film where I felt bored or disinterested in the material, and I’m not even sure what scene I could recommend as a good point to take a pee break. It’s really saying something that a director like Martin Scorsese, now in his 80s, is still making compelling and highly engaging cinema that almost feels undeserved by today’s typically jaded audiences. This is a haunting work of art, and at times a hard watch, but a movie that demands respect and feels honest without being condescending or accusatory. It also feels oddly timely considering some of the current issues with immigration. There is no part of this film that feels unnecessary or excessive, it is masterful in its execution, and one of the most important works of Scorsese’s impressive career.

DiCaprio brings a quiet sincerity to his performance, one of the more subdued roles in recent memory, but there’s a rumbling depth there that bubbles up in all the right moments. This is hardly a glamorous or charming role, but it’s executed beautifully and really illustrates why he’s one of the finest actors working today. De Niro finds excellence in his performance as well, as a sort of charming snake of a man who is manipulating everyone around him, all while making them think he’s doing these things in their best interests. Like Scorsese, he’s proving here that even at his advanced age, he’s very much still got it when it counts. But the true heart and soul of this production is Lily Gladstone, who is the very important perspective of the audience in this story, and really captures the heartbreak and plight of her people, and carries us through a flood of emotions and with a perfectly delivered performance. This is star-making role, and she will be highly talked about after this film, for good reason.

I expected KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON to be a really good movie, but I didn’t expect it to stick with me the way it did, almost in a life-changing way. This isn’t a pleasant movie to watch, and it will likely be hard to revisit due to its overall tone, but the importance of its content cannot be ignored, nor should it. May only complaint is more of a general gripe with “long” movies these days, or which there seem to be many… now more than ever, we really need to bring back the movie theater intermission. During my press screening, I saw a few critics leave for a bathroom break, and they missed a VERY important and shocking scene that is a moment that shouldn’t be missed. Make sure to pee first, and hope you don’t miss that scene as well, but definitely make efforts to see this movie, which you’ll likely be hearing a lot more about come award season.

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON opens October 20, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.