Killers Of The Flower Moon – Director: Martin Scorsese (Film Review)

Killers Of The Flower Moon features a chapter of American history they never taught us in school. Martin Scorsese brings this chilling story to light as only he can do.

Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow

Raise your hand if you know about The Oklahoma Murders, The Osage Nation, The Tulsa Massacre or William “King” Hale. I was raised in the U.S. and attended school in the 1960s where we were taught that America was always on the right side, that we never lost a war and that this was truly “the land of the free”.

Now, 60 years later, that history lesson is changing.

Based on the 2017 novel by David Grann of the same name, the book’s subtitle is key…”The Osage Murders and the Birth Of The F.B.I..

The Osage Nation were an indigenous  North American tribe who suddenly became one of the wealthiest groups of people per capita when oil was discovered on their land in Oklahoma in 1894. By the early 1900’s these folks had what we would now call, significant ‘buying power’.

But, as the saying goes, money is the root of all evil, and there was plenty of money and even more evil as outsiders (white Europeans) did whatever they could to get their hands on all the money.

One such man was William “King” Hale a cattle baron play by Robert De Niro who has managed to earn the trust of the Osage people and the locals all the while conniving in the most ruthless manner to take as much of the earnings from the black gold as he can.

Hale has two nephews, Ernest and Bryan Burkhart who arrive to seek their fortune. King Hale sees them as a means to an end, another opportunity to make more money as he convinces the two young men to marry Osage women in order to get his hands on their “Headrights”…the rights to the oil money.

Ernest is played by Leonardo Di Caprio and he is as charming as ever, quickly catching the eye of Molly Kyle (Lily Gladstone), one of three sisters, who he eventually marries. His brother Bryan (Scott Shepherd) marries Molly’s sister Anna.

And so the stage is set. OK, it’s one thing to marry for money, but quite another to kill for it. Shockingly, William Hale and his friends seem to have no conscious whatsoever as they casually shoot, poison, blow up anyone who get in their way of getting richer, be they stranger, friend or family member.

The body count is astounding…keep in mind, this is a true story. Finally the Federal government wades in as Tom White (Jesse Plemons) a BOI agent (early version of the F.B.I.) comes to town to investigate.

So, that’s the plot and Scorsese takes 206 minutes to tell the story. Is it worth it?


This is Scorsese at his best. He gets the most out of his actors…Di Caprio and De Niro have never been better and newcomer Lily Gladstone as Molly Kyle, is incredible…her eyes alone tell 1000 stories.

And the supporting cast is equally impressive. Along with John Lithgow and Brendon Fraser we get standout performances from musicians such as Charlie Musselwhite, Sturgill Simpson, Jack White, Pete Yorn and, best of all, Jason Isbell. Mind you, these guys are acting, not simply playing instruments in the background.

Speaking of music, the late, great Robbie Robertson composed the score and it hits all the right notes, weaving old tunes like The Great Speckled Bird among his own pulsing rhythms.

So, what can we learn from this story?

Well, I couldn’t help but think about that great Orange turkey and his MAGA followers when King Hale convinces nephew Ernest to stay loyal to the family rather than testify against him.

Hale has no empathy for anyone but himself, but does Ernest?

Such is the power of Killers Of The Flower Moon…a true tale from a bygone era that rings true today and is told by a master, still at the height of his powers.

Marty Duda

Killers Of The Flower Moon opens today in cinemas all over New Zealand