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A fascinating story of greed, violence and racism gets the epic treatment in Scorsese's latest but despite some striking images the film lacks momentum, suspense and emotional resonance.

Martin Scorsese has been candid about the fact that the first screenplay drafts of Killers of the Flower Moon focused much more heavily on the FBI investigation into a string of murders among the Native American population of Osage County. One can't help but feel that this would have made a much better movie.

Instead Scorsese and his co-writer Eric Roth make Killers of the Flower Moon into an epic 'eastern' that goes to great lengths to flesh out the arena. During chunks of the picture that results in an immersive experience, filled to the brim with period detail and Scorsese's trademark cinematic flourish.

What gets lost in this approach are the characters however. Not once did I feel a true connection to any of the main players, not even tot Lily Gladstone, who initially intrigues as a headstrong Osage woman but is frustratingly sidelined for almost the entire second half of the inflated 3.5-hour runtime.

That second half is the stronger half of the movie, as the FBI invstigation finally kicks in and the characters have to deal with real consequences of their abhorrant actions for the first time. But it also muddles the message that Killers of the Flower Moon wants to convey - or rather: doesn't convey. Despite selling the film as a vindication of the Osage people's suffering, Killers of the Flower Moon still comes off as a 'white guy grows a conscience' film.

Add to this some distracting stunt casting in the picture's final half hour, a puzzlingly odd and tonally jarring concluding sequence and the lack of satisfying redemption or punishment for any of the characters and you're left with a grand epic without a soul.

release: 2023

director: Martin Scorsese

starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons


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