Killers of the Flower Moon Review

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon marks the sixth collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and the ninth with Robert De Niro. With a flawless filmography and a career spanning decades, Scorsese is undeniably one of the most influential and celebrated directors working today.

In his latest opus, Martin Scorsese takes us on a dark and bloody ride through the heartland of America in Killers of the Flower Moon, a film that blends the spirit of his signature crime drama into the Western epic. Based on the chilling non-fiction book by David Grann, the film plunges us into the 1920s Osage Nation, where the discovery of oil beneath their land brought much wealth and strife to their people.

Despite streaming becoming the accepted means of watching new films, Scorsese adamantly releases this epic three-and-a-half-hour-long movie in theaters. For some, Killers of the Flower Moon may be a grueling and brutal drama, but while streaming, it borders on being a miniseries without credits. Where does Killers of the Flower Moon rank among Scorsese’s works? Find out in this Killers of the Flower Moon review!

Killers of the Flower Moon

Production Company: Apple Studios, Imperative Pictures, Sikelia Productions, Appian Way Productions
Distributor: Apple TV+, Paramount Pictures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Release Date: October 20, 2023

The hearts of the Osage elders were heavy as lead. They mourned their children, lost in the white man’s world, their traditions slipping away like water through cracked fingers.

From the bowels of the earth, a black serpent of oil erupted, bringing with it a twisted fortune. Overnight, this rag-tag tribe became the wealthiest people in the nation.

The Osage, wise and proud, had kept their rights to the land, and the black gold flowed like a river into their coffers. It didn’t take long for statesmen who saw this as an opportunity to exploit. They declared the Osage “incompetent” and appointed themselves guardians of their newfound wealth.

Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a World War I veteran, haunted by demons and seeking solace in the arms of his brother, Byron (Scott Shepard), and their uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro).

Hale, a man with a forked tongue and a hidden agenda, posed as a benevolent figure, speaking the Osage language and showering them with schools and hospitals. Beneath the surface, Hale was a diabolical mastermind, his eyes fixed on their riches.

Ernest marries Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), an Osage heiress whose family held the key to vast oil wealth. He wooed her with stolen kisses and whispered promises, all the while plotting with his brother to wring them dry through a combination of murders and insurance fraud.

Mollie, trapped in a spiderweb of love and deception, falls for Ernest’s charm. Her happiness bloomed brittle and short-lived in the shadow of King Hale’s gaze.

As the bodies of her tribe pile up, she grows more paranoid of every white man around her. Hale’s whispers turned to threats, his smile a wolf’s grin, promising Ernest more wealth bought with the blood of Mollie’s tribe. One by one the Osage fell, poisoned by secrets and deceit.

Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic drama about black gold and blood, of love and betrayal, of a people fighting for their very existence in a world that sought to devour them. It’s a story that stained Oklahoma’s soil for generations to come, a beat-down on the human spirit and the triumph of darkness that lurks in the hearts of men.

Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic drama incorporating Western elements and a web of intrigue and paranoia. Despite its staggering length of three and a half hours, the story is always moving and building up momentum. It certainly didn’t need to be this long, but it is impressive that the film is never boring.

The subject matter depicts a very dark time in American history and Scorsese does not shy away from showing the savagery of the white man and the natives. The story gets so bleak it may turn off some viewers since there are almost no likable characters. The Osage and whites are all depicted as equally racist.

Leonardo DiCaprio utterly vanishes into his role as Earnest. He plays a very unflattering dimwit who is easily manipulated by his sinister uncle played by De Niro.

Earnest isn’t a sharp man, but he is a useful idiot and a lot of the drama in the story comes from the viewer second-guessing his devotion to his wife Mollie. He loves her, but he also loves money.

Mollie’s a whirlwind of contradictions, an Osage heiress whose fortune swells as tragically as her family dwindles. Pride, perhaps her strongest suit, can double as a double-edged sword, costing her dearly when it hardens into stubbornness.

The film glosses over the true events of when she and the other Osage go to Washington D.C. and bribe President Coolidge to send authorities to investigate the killings.

The Osage and Coolidge meeting matters because this chain of events led to the invention of the F.B.I. that we know today.

The film is already bloated and would be completely watchable if the first hour was cut, so it stands out that this sequence is a footnote in the film when there are a lot of scenes of Earnest and Mollie courting each other.

Scorsese paints the 1920s Oklahoma with a master’s brush, meticulously recreating the era’s grit and glamour. The immersion is flawless, punctuated only by a few jarring moments of unconvincing CGI blood. In this tableau of meticulously crafted sets, the digitally rendered crimson clashes, sterile and cold against the raw authenticity.

Scoresese’s attention to detail of historical accuracy makes Killers of the Flower Moon utterly engrossing and immersive. It’s easy to get lost in the setting thanks to the verisimilitude of the locations and the casting of the characters. Every extra has lines all over their face and dresses in period-accurate attire that looks worn.

DiCaprio shows unbelievable facial muscle control and wears rotten dental prosthetics that seemingly alter the bone structure of his face. He may be much older than the real Earnest was during the events of the story, but he is utterly convincing in the role and feels like he is truly a dimwitted man of the 1920s.

There are some brutal killings and some awesome scenes of violence as expected from a historical crime drama from the man who made Goodfellas. Scoresese’s signature style and panache for long uncut camera moves are on full display and they go a long way in making the setting feel real.

Killers of the Flower Moon is masterclass filmmaking. Martin Scorsese proves once again why he’s arguably the best director alive, with his uncanny ability to weave even the most complex topics into enthralling narratives brimming with tense intrigue. Be prepared to give this film your full attention. The expansive cast of characters and sheer depth of the story might make it feel closer to a miniseries at times.

This isn’t Scoresese’s best movie, but Killers of the Flower Moon is one of the best movies of 2023. It’s incredibly dense and there are a lot of threads that connect which makes it excellent for rewatching, but that also does mean sitting through it which can take up most of your day.

Killers of the Flower Moon can veer into white guilt Oscar bait territory at times. This becomes abundantly clear in the film’s denouement which completely changes style and makes a diabolical statement about commercialization of historical events for entertainment. The ending is wryly clever and is where the director throws his cards on the table and it’s hard to not be impressed by the brazen boldness.

Killers of the Flower Moon was reviewed with a digital streaming license purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy hereKillers of the Flower Moon is now available via Vudu.

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The Verdict: 7

The Good

  • Tense and enthralling all the way through
  • Believable depiction of 1920s Oklahoma
  • DiCaprio and De Niro are utterly electric in their roles
  • Impeccable cinematography and evocative scene direction
  • Elements of dark comedy and avant garde epilogue

The Bad

  • Unconvincing CGI blood
  • Padded with unnecessary scenes
  • Oscar-baity white guilt themes


A youth destined for damnation.

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