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"Killers of the Flower Moon" 4K Review

Let's get something clear right now: It doesn't matter how good an artist WAS in the past or how large a legacy they've amassed if they're recent work is subpar. Too often, critics grade on a curve, transferring the greatness of the past to the mediocrity of the present to varying degrees. I've repeatedly called out the immunity Christopher Nolan has earned from his run from Memento to Inception which has allowed everything since to be hailed as yet another "masterpiece" from a "visionary filmmaker" when they've ranged from screamingly mediocre to "Why is anyone allowing this clown to make movies?" (I haven't seen Oppenheimer yet because I'm not in a rush to spend three hours checking in whether he still sucks. UPDATE: Saw it and it's OK. Not terrible, but not the masterpiece his simps feel it is.)

The desperate equivocation over Tenet nearly broke some critics as they attempted to justify that blazing dumpster fire by transferring the greatness of The Dark Knight and mumbling about how maybe it'd make sense after repeated viewings. (Note: If you need to watch a movie more than once to understand the plot, it's failed at basic storytelling.)

 Which brings us to Martin Scorsese who has made some all-time classics in his 50-year-long career, but has devolved into a purveyor of needlessly excessively long movies which rack up tons of Oscar nominations for the past decade-plus. His last four films - The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence, The Irishman, and Killers of the Flower Moon - have and an average running time of 3h 9m and Killers is 3h 26m of mercilessly boring nothingness that expects us to swoon because Marty is working with his two most famous muses, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. [UPDATE: It worked as it raked in 10 Oscar nominations for  Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Costume Design, Original Song,  Original Score, Production Design, Editing, and Best Cinematography. Oy vey.]

 Set in 1919 Oklahoma we learn the Osage Indians on the land discovered oil some time before and as a result have become very wealthy, but because racism they are deemed "incompetent" and must have their finances and savings managed by a white court-appointed legal guardian.

 Into this frontier comes Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) who returns from World War I looking to live near and work for his uncle, William King Hale (De Nero). Given a job as a cab driver, he meets Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone) and becomes smitten with her, eventually marrying her and starting a family.

However, on the side Ernest has been also committing robberies against the Osage with his brother Byron (Scott Shepherd) and King has been ordering the murders of Mollie's family members because the headrights - the rights to the valuable minerals and oil under the land - would accrue to the remaining family, eventually meaning only Mollie survives and as a diabetic, Ernest is given poison to put in her insulin to further weaken and eventually kill her, leaving the rights to Ernest.

The Osage realize they're being knocked off, but with local law enforcement in King's pocket they attempt to hire a private investigator and seek help from the Federal government, but those efforts are thwarted. Only when Mollie makes a pilgrimage to Washington D.C. and pleads to President Calvin Coolidge which brings a BOI (the original name of the FBI) investigator, Thomas Bruce Wright Sr. (Jessie Plemons), to town where the conspiracy is unraveled and Ernest put on trial along with King.

There is so much wrong with Killers of the Flower Moon that it's hard to know where to start, but let's begin with the running time. This is a two-hour movie stuffed into a 3-1/2 hour sack. For comparison, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull ran 10 minutes under and over two hours; Scorsese's pity Oscar winner, The Departed was 2-1/2 hours. Even the bloated Gangs of New York was "only' three hours. There simply isn't enough story to justify the runtime. [UPDATE: How the great Thelma Schoonmaker gets nominated for editing a movie which appears to have just assembled everything they shot into something sequential is sad.]

Yes, the indigenous peoples of these lands got a raw deal and that's why liberals refuse to observe Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, but I agree with Spike's take on the subject on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in that we get it, MOVE ON! But even as a liberal white self-loathing hairshirt worn by Hollywood to preen virtue it seems more interested in the bad white guys stories than the Indians other than their being the victims of white genocide/land theft.

Then there's Leo's performance, if you can call grimacing as if he has a tummy ache for 3-1/2 hours a performance. [UPDATE: The fact that Leo was shut out for nominations by everyone while his co-stars were noted says it all as to how bad this is. When nominations are handed out like candy and he don't get none.] He's also a totally passive character, bossed around by King, doing as he's told even as it's harming the woman he supposedly loves. And he's simply waaaaaaaaay too old for the part. DiCaprio was 47 when filming this and he's looking his age. (Banging sub-25-year-old supermodels ages a man, I guess.) He simply doesn't read like a young man needed a job after a war.

Gladstone is OK as the suffering Mollie, though all she does is smile knowingly at Leo's flirting, be stoic, then spend hours crying and suffering. There's a lot of Oscar buzz around Gladstone, but sadly it seems mostly oriented about wanting to Make History and allow Hollyweird's liberal white guilt itch to be scratched by naming the first Native American Oscar winner now that they checked the First Asian Best Actress box last year with Michelle Yeoh. (It's racist and demeaning, but that's Hollyweird for you.) [UPDATE: While Emma Stone has been winning most of the awards for Poor Things as she should, Gladstone won the SAG Award and that may portend an upset at the Oscars. It would be another sad case of Hollyweird allowing their political preening to trump performance as when Sean Penn in Milk was gifted Best Actor over Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler in response to California voters atteHGmpting to codify opposite sex marriage in 2008. Penn's performance was excellent and was my runner-up pick, but even Penn knew he won because of politics.]

The surprise performance is De Niro's. He's been phoning in his performances for ages, lazily relying on his tough guy persona and outdated reputation as America's Greatest Actor (when his last Oscar win was in 1980), but here he actually shows up ready to play, probably to show Scorsese and DiCaprio who the boss was. King could've been a one-note cartoon, but De Niro trims his portrayal with enough humanity and manipulative charisma that you'd believe an idiot like Ernest would obey.

Part of the fawning over Killers of the Flower Moon is due to Scorsese's age (he's now 81) and how many more movies he has in him. (For comparison, Ridley Scott is 86 and currently making Gladiator 2.) But as I said at the beginning, past success is no excuse for current failure. If your favorite restaurant's quality has declined, would you keep going because it used to be good? Exactly. My favorite Scorsese movie is After Hours which was recently released by the Criterion Collection. That 1985 black comedy has a stacked cast, is simply bonkers in its storytelling, and clocks in at a brisk and satisfying 97 minutes. Scorsese should try telling meaningful stories in a concise manner because this does neither.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.


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