Killers of the Flower Moon Review: DiCaprio Gives His Best Performance for Scorsese's Bitterest Crime Epic

Killers of the Flower Moo

While Martin Scorsese may have approached "Killers of the Flower Moon" as the
Western he's always wanted to make, this American epic is at its most powerful
and self-assured when it delves into other genres that emerge throughout its
lengthy three-and-a-half-hour runtime. The film explores the genocidal
conspiracy against the Osage Nation during the 1920s, and while it may have
Western elements, it is more impactful when it ventures beyond the confines of
the genre.

Scorsese's Gangster Epic Returns in 'Killers'

One of the most prominent genres that "Killers of the Flower Moon" explores is
the gangster drama, which is a hallmark of Scorsese's previous work. Despite
"The Irishman" seemingly serving as his final word on the genre, the director
is once again pulled back in for a film that features brutal killings, bitter
voiceovers, and biting commentary on the corruptive nature of American
capitalism. While "Gimme Shelter" may not have made the final cut, Robbie
Robertson's score, with its chugging bass groove, feels brilliantly
anachronistic and almost suggests that the song could have been included.

An Epic Tragedy: America's History Exposed

And yet, as much as this film is a gangster movie, it's also a tragedy of
American history, a study of the ways in which white people have repeatedly
exploited and exterminated the Indigenous populations of this land. The Osage
murders were just one of countless atrocities in a centuries-long campaign of
genocide, butthe film doesn't shy away from the horror of what happened. The
performances are uniformly excellent, with DiCaprio giving one of his best
performances yet for Scorsese, and the film's cinematography and production
design are stunning.

A Masterpiece of Cinema: Scorsese's Best Yet

Overall, "Killers of the Flower Moon" is an outstanding and powerful cinematic
work that is well worth watching. While it's a crime epic at its core, it's
also a scathing critique of American capitalism and a heartbreaking reminder
of the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples throughout this
country's history. Scorsese has once again proven himself to be a master
filmmaker, and DiCaprio's performance is just one of the many reasons to see
this film.

Uncovering the Sinister Plot

Despite the vast historical backdrop of the Reign of Terror caused by the
Osage oil discovery, Scorsese's adaptation of "Killers of the Flower Moon"
focuses narrowly on the modern sociopath and old-fashioned cowboy who tried to
stop him. While David Grann's book covers the end of the Wild West and the
birth of the 20th century, Scorsese's film primarily explores the sinister
mastermind and his accomplice, whose limited understanding of the evolving
American landscape led to their heinous actions."

William Hale's beliefs & different storytelling approaches

In "Killers of the Flower Moon", William Hale viewed the Osage as mere
caretakers of the wealth that his country had accidentally bestowed upon them
while stealing their land. He believed that certain people could commit murder
in the name of white progress and get away with it, and Scorsese's film
highlights the distressing passages that may have reinforced this conviction
even after the Bureau of Investigation began to pursue him. While Grann's book
was an expansive conspiracy thriller that examined the facts of the case and
America's transition from myth to modernity, Eric Roth's script takes a
different approach by quickly identifying the murderers and delving deeper
into their relationship. The film seeps out from the ground and puddles in a
few places, rather than ebbing and flowing.

Unfortunately, Eric Roth's approach in "Killers of the Flower Moon" does not
work well for Tom White, the cowboy mentioned earlier. White's character is
diminished to the point where he would hardly make an impact in the story if
not for Jesse Plemons' quiet moral strength. Instead of being a living emblem
of the faded American West, he comes across as a stiff man in a striped suit.
Interestingly, Roth and Scorsese initially envisioned White as the
protagonist, but they ultimately realized that centering law enforcement would
take too much attention away from the Osage and the toll that these events had
on their community. Even with the remarkable performances of Native American
actors like William Belleau and Tantoo Cardinal, their witness to the horrors
around them is less immediate than the silence that surrounds it in the
finished version of the film.

Roth's adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon transforms the historical
account of the Osage murders into a rich and complex character study of the
perpetrators and the victims. It also allows Scorsese to explore one of his
most intriguing and challenging themes in his recent films: The twisted love
story between an Osage woman and the white man who secretly orchestrated the
killing of her family for their oil rights.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers a career-best performance as Ernest Burkhart, the
cowardly and conniving husband of Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman whose
relatives are systematically eliminated by a conspiracy of white men. DiCaprio
sheds all traces of glamour and charisma to portray a man who is consumed by
greed, guilt and self-loathing.

Leonardo DiCaprio  in "Killers of the Flower Moon" Official Teaser Trailer

The film opens with Ernest's return to Fairfax, Oklahoma after serving in World War I, where he sustained a stomach injury that impaired his ability to work. He is shocked to see how the Osage people have become wealthy and powerful due to the discovery of oil on their land, while the white settlers are desperate and envious. He soon falls under the influence of his uncle, William Hale, a ruthless businessman who masterminds the plot to murder the Osage and claim their inheritance.

Some men pursue their dreams by taking photographs or selling cars on the
bustling main street that Scorsese depicts as the most lively and immersive
setting of his film (thanks to the brilliant work of production designer Jack
Fisk). Others, more cunning and greedy, seek to marry into Osage wealth, which
would also give them full authority over their wives' money due to a blatantly
racist "guardianship" system that deemed Native Americans too "incompetent" to
manage their own finances.

"Killers of the Flower Moon" Review: DiCaprio Gives His Best Performance for Scorsese's Bitterest Crime Epic
Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon" Official Teaser Trailer

Ernest, for his part, seems mostly bewildered by his situation. He's a handsome but dim-witted man who walks around town with the clueless confidence of someone who has an endless supply of moonshine at the dawn of Prohibition. DiCaprio delivers every line of Ernest's drawling speech from the bottom of his sagging cheeks, creating a character that resembles the Lemmons scene in "The Wolf of Wall Street" stretched into a whole performance. He's a perfect example of someone who argued that Jordan Belfort was too charming and likable.

Ernest's good looks, bad brains, and general indifference to the consequences of his actions don't seem like a recipe for success, but his ambitious uncle — William Hale, the self-proclaimed "King of the Osage Hills" — recognizes a useful fool when he sees one. Played by a deceptively sweet and utterly sinister Robert De Niro, Hale is a local businessman who claims, with a lot of condescension, to love the Osage like his own children. In fact, he wants them to be his own children, with their headrights flowing up to his pocket like oil from the ground under their feet. As Hale tells his nephew: "If you're gonna make trouble, make it big

"Robert De Niro in "Killers of the Flower Moon

At this point in the story, Hale has already chosen Ernest to work on a valuable untapped vein in town, which belongs to an unmarried Osage woman named Mollie Kyle. Mollie is soon to be married to Ernest and will become Mrs. Burkhart, played by Lily Gladstone, who is a remarkable actor. Although Mollie is considered "incompetent" by the white man's law, she possesses a sharp intellect and understands that she and her people are being exploited. She has reluctantly come to terms with the limited options available to her people, and her bitterness and ferocity are evident in her manner of speech.

Lily Gladstone's brief but powerful performance as Mollie is essential to the
film, which is quite long and doesn't dedicate enough time to her character.
Mollie's initial interaction with Ernest is one of the most energetic and
engaging scenes in the film, with Martin Scorsese at the top of his game.
However, as Mollie's family members begin to die and Mrs. Burkhart falls into
a diabetic coma, the film loses its momentum and becomes a jumble of
disconnected details that fail to add up. On the first viewing of such a
complex film, it is difficult to fully comprehend everything that is
happening. By the time Mollie returns to the forefront of the story several
hours later, still the most compelling character, there is not enough time
left to explore her feelings about the terror that she and her people are
experiencing, both on a personal and collective level.

It's frustrating that Mollie doesn't get more screen time because she and
Ernest make such a captivating couple, especially as their bond develops and
outlasts the deaths of Mollie's family members. Despite being under Hale's
control, Ernest begins to lose his sense of self, but Leonardo DiCaprio's
performance elicits a strange kind of sympathy for this repugnant man who is
unaware of his own emotions and may have played a role in poisoning the only
person who cares for him. It's an uncomfortable yet intriguing performance,
and Lily Gladstone matches DiCaprio's every move as a woman who also
experiences discomfort because she is aware of her own emotions.

Despite the film's slow courtroom scenes towards the end, it is a testament to Scorsese's skill at capturing the complexities of love and exploitation that it remains engaging until the end. Scorsese has a unique ability to blur the lines between these two concepts, whether it's between two individuals or two groups of people.

While it may be simplistic to view Ernest and Mollie's relationship as a metaphor for the Osage Nation's relationship with white America, the emotional turmoil that Scorsese evokes demands consideration in a broader historical context.

It also resonates within Scorsese's own filmmaking history, as De Niro's duplicitous Hale plots against the same Osage Nation families who saw him as a benevolent intermediary to white America.

This echoes the same sense of detachment and disassociation that was present in Scorsese's earlier films like "Casino" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." .

Unfortunately, the love that Ace Rothstein talks about is not the kind that
Hale gives to the Osage Nation. They are in desperate need of a white man to
advocate for them and protect their interests, but Hale is convinced that
their time is up, and he sees himself as an agent of fate helping to relieve
them of their wealth before they become a footnote in history. With the help
of Ernest's brother and his other henchmen (played by a talented supporting
cast, including Sturgill Simpson and Louis Cancelmi), Hale callously murders
the Osage people, much like a tiger preying on its victims.

Despite Hale's twisted reasoning, the film's narrow focus makes it difficult
to see him as anything more than a ruthless capitalist. While this is
certainly true, without a broader context, Hale comes across as an anomaly
rather than a symptom of a deeper American sickness (with the exception of the
reference to the Tulsa Race Massacre, which is a crucial reminder of the
nation's history of violence against marginalized communities). Rodrigo
Prieto's stunning cinematography effectively captures the dusty, dry landscape
of the setting, but the camera's frame rarely expands beyond Fisk's Main
Street set. The film begins with a sense of boundless potential for America's
future, but gradually becomes constricted, with medium shots framing out the
very people who were denied that future. 

It's a challenging task for a filmmaker as talented as Scorsese, as he
grapples with the tension between his ability to tell any story and the
realization that this may not be his story to tell. Ultimately, Scorsese's
"Killers of the Flower Moon" becomes a story about greed, corruption, and the
tarnished soul of a country built on the belief that it belonged to those who
were ruthless enough to take it. And in this regard, Scorsese tells the story
better than anyone else.

killers of the flower moon movie release date

"Killers of the Flower Moon" has been revealed by Apple Original Films. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, May 20, and will be released exclusively in theaters worldwide, in partnership with Paramount Pictures, on Friday, October 6, and widely on Friday, October 20, before making its global debut. Once on Apple TV +.

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