Film: “Killers of the Flower Moon” directed by Martin Scorsese
The first thing you may have heard about Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon”’is that it’s 3 and 1/2 hours. Allow me to confirm this is true.
But long doesn’t have to mean tedious. And what “Killers” has going for it is a great story that is also true: the murder of Osage Native Americans in the 1920s for their drilling rights when oil was discovered on their reservation in Oklahoma.
The story begins in 1919, when Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo Di Caprio), a World War I veteran, returns to live with his brother Byron (Scott Shepherd) and his uncle Bill “King” Hale (Robert DeNiro) in Oklahoma. Uncle King, the deputy sheriff, poses as a friend to the Osage but is as crooked as the day is long. Gaining his nephew’s confidence, he slowly but surely convinces Ernest, not the sharpest tool in anyone’s toolbox, to begin robbing the Osage.
This evil strategy is complicated by Ernest falling in love with Mollie (Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman whose family has come into significant oil wealth. Uncle King also convinces Ernest to kill Molly’s sisters, arguing Ernest’s share of the pot—and subsequently King’s— will be bigger the more family members Ernest kills off.
A ludicrous idea, to be sure, but Ernest buys it and enlists henchmen even dumber than he is to execute the dirty work. Or maybe the idea is not so ludicrous. As one of the characters points out, “In these parts you get in more trouble from kicking a dog than killing an Indian”.
Determined to find who is killing her family members (not suspecting her own husband for a moment) and generally incensed by the increasing number of murdered tribespeople (and indifference of the Oklahoma state government), Mollie travels to Washington DC, despite suffering from diabetes, to try and enlist the Federal Government’s help. Surprisingly, they send a representative of the FBI (Jesse Plemmons) to investigate her complaint. Once he’s on the case, major consequences result.
A Scorsese fan since “Who’s That Knocking On My Door” (1967), I found much to respect in this film—the graceful cinematography by Rodrigo Pietro, the score by the late Robbie Robertson (a Scorsese collaborator since “The Last Waltz”), and in particular the subtle acting of Gladstone as a woman torn between two cultures. It was also fun spotting John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser and Louis Cancelmi in various supporting roles.
And no movie is a Scorsese movie without the physical violence and shouting matches that occasionally match the intensity of “Goodfellas” and “Mean Streets.”
But is “Killers”’ a movie in the same league as “Raging Bull?” or “Taxi Driver?” Are you talking to me? Then I say no. Sorry/not sorry.
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