KSL Movie Show review: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

Oct 18, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: Jan 4, 2024, 3:30 pm

Movie poster for Killers of the Flower Moon, a new film based on the exhaustive research and eventu...

(Apple Original Films and Paramount Pictures)

(Apple Original Films and Paramount Pictures)

When a tragic, true story like this comes to your attention, it’s embarrassing that you didn’t know of its existence. Based on exhaustive research and eventually a best-selling book, American journalist David Grann details a series of murders in early 1920s Osage County, Oklahoma, involving members of the Osage Indian tribe.

Why were the Osage singled out?

Mainly, because the tribe became the richest people per capita in the world after oil was discovered under its land. The Osage owned the mineral rights. Money flowed into the reservation. Mansions were built. Fancy cars and fur coats were purchased. And those on the outside were looking for ways to get on the inside.

One of those ways was for white men to marry into Osage families. This is where we meet Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) fresh from serving his country in World War One.

He has moved to Fairfax, Oklahoma to work for his uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro) who conceives a notion that his simple, handsome young nephew can marry into a prominent Osage family, specifically wooing the middle daughter Mollie (Lily Gladstone).

Mollie knows what’s happening, even calling Ernest a “coyote” (stealing-chickens-from-the-henhouse sort of guy.) But she falls in love with the constantly scowling big lug and he actually falls in love with her. And, there’s some debate about that but film director Martin Scorsese decided a true love story is more interesting and creates more drama.

So how do we get from a love story to outright murder?

Two reasons mainly – impatience to get their hands on the money and the audacity that eliminating key members of the Osage tribe could be accomplished with little-to-no investigation.

Scorsese insists Ernest’s intentions are pure, that he’s simply a pawn in the hands of his powerful, yet seemingly kind and sincere uncle. But boy, things about to get really ugly.

Here’s where the newly-formed Bureau of Investigation comes poking around. A young J. Edgar Hoover is eager to bolster his fledgling agency, sending former Texas Ranger and top field agent Tom White (Jesse Plemons) to solve the now twenty-odd murders (Grann suggests the numbers were much higher) that have taken place in Osage County in roughly a year’s time.

Therein lies the set-up. The question is — does Scorsese and company pull it off?

The answer is a resounding yes — with a couple of notable exceptions.

It’s a lot to ask an audience to sit still for a three-hour and 26-minute movie. It is very compelling, beautifully shot and acted, but it feels like Scorsese looked at the clock and said, ‘We’ve got to wrap this up. Let’s close out the third act and resolution with an old-timey “true crime” radio broadcast that will rapidly give these long-suffering seat dwellers the where’s, what’s and why’s of the characters involved.’

So, after such a plodding, deliberate pace, the end feels a bit rushed.

Salles: One of the best films of 2023

Still, there’s no question that “Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of the best films of 2023. Its story is haunting and disturbing. Two characteristics don’t exactly leave your memory anytime soon.

Killers of the Flower Moon is rated R for violence, some grisly images, and language. It was co-written and directed by Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”, “Raging Bull”) and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Jesse Plemons. It was filmed in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and runs 206 minutes.

The KSL Movie Show with Andy Farnsworth and Steve Salles airs Fridays on KSL NewsRadio from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Follow the show on Facebook, and join The KSL Movie Show Club for exclusive perks by texting MOVIE to 57500.

Other reading: KSL’s Doug Wright to host final movie show program, continues with long-time host Andy Farnsworth

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KSL Movie Show review: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’