'Killers of the Flower Moon' got rave reviews from most critics, except one who said watching the movie was 'akin to being locked in a room with a pair of soulless sadists'

Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon," sitting at a table.
Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon."Courtesy of Apple

Martin Scorsese continues exploring criminals and power struggles in a way that's thought-provoking.

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon."
Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon."AppleTV+

"For his telling, Scorsese has drawn on assorted genres — the movie is at once a romance, a western, a domestic drama, a whodunit and, finally, a police procedural — that effortlessly mix, ebb and flow." — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"Once the murders arrive, the film becomes a blistering Scorsese gangster movie enmeshed with a Western, with back-alley murders, shady under-the-table dealings and Thelma Schoonmaker's zippy editing across various moving parts that gives the multi-pronged story its shape and speed." — Tomris Laffly, TheWrap

"The shift into historical Americana breathes a soulfulness into the material that feels distinct from most of the director's output." — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Scorsese isn't just ushering us into the backrooms of the criminal world, he is exposing how the insidiousness of white supremacy in America makes all those who do nothing to actively fight it complicit in its evils." — Kristy Puchko, Mashable

"A towering achievement of immense empathy and startling historical truths, 'Killers of the Flower Moon' shows a master at work on a level few can achieve. It's a repudiation of the glamorized gangster movie Scorsese has become so associated with, a deconstruction of the romanticized Western genre, and a condemnation of you, the audience, the complacent viewer who gobbles up the very things we so frequently criticize." — Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

Lily Gladstone's performance as Mollie Burkhart is Oscar-worthy.

Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon"
Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon."AppleTV+

"Gladstone, in the rare Scorsese film that gives center stage to a female character, is the emotional core here, and it's her face that stays etched in our memory." — Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

"Gladstone, hitherto best known for her superb breakout performance in Kelly Reichardt's drama 'Certain Women,' is magnificent here. Mollie is a point of stillness in a frame bursting with swagger and noise. Her serene composure draws the eye; her quiet strength holds it."  — Wendy Ide, The Guardian

"In so many ways, though, this is Lily Gladstone's movie. She plays Mollie with a mix of standoffishness and exhausted hope." — Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

"A strikingly direct woman surrounded by deceitful men, Gladstone's Mollie conveys as much with her expressive eyes or the subtle shifts of her mouth as she does with words." — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Gladstone's captivating performance makes you feel her turmoil, as well as her unrelenting grief as her family members keep dying." — Justin Chang, NPR

"The film, standing high among the year's very best, is unthinkable without her soulful presence." — Peter Travers, ABC News

The film's runtime of three hours and 26 minutes is polarizing, with some saying it leads to a loss of momentum and others arguing that it's justified.

Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon."
Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon."Apple TV+

"Taking a cue from the movie's soon-to-be-infamous spanking scene between Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio, someone ought to paddle whoever let Martin Scorsese take three and a half hours to retell 'Killers of the Flower Moon.'" — Peter Debruge, Variety

"In its considerable length, 'Killers of the Flower Moon' does some meandering. Plot points arrive without preamble and then float away only to be revisited much later. Characters drift in and out of the picture." — Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

"At 3½ hours, the movie tests the audience's tolerance for episodic rehearsals of bad deeds done; by the time we get to the inevitable courtroom drama (featuring a distractingly cast Brendan Fraser), the proceedings feel rote and anticlimactic." — Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

"Films that spend time on such depth and detail for important yet overlooked stories like this should be celebrated, rather than criticized or approached with trepidation. " — Miles Surrey, The Ringer

One of the film's strengths is the decision to diverge from the book's focus on the creation of the FBI and instead lay out the villains and their motives from the onset.

Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons in "Killers of the Flower Moon."
Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons in "Killers of the Flower Moon."Apple TV+

"Whereas Grann used his narrative to tell not just the story of the Osage people but the emergence of the modern day FBI, which ends up bringing the perpetrators to justice, the filmmakers allow us to watch the acts unfold knowing exactly who is behind them." — Esther Zuckerman, The Daily Beast

"The obvious way to tell this story — the one Grann took for his book — would be as a criminal investigation. But the movie makes a stronger impression asking audiences to identify with the killers, while showing how this conspiracy impacted the Osage Nation." — Peter Debruge, Variety

"Without taking the limited series route, Scorsese and Roth make necessary choices in focusing on the steady buildup of treachery and dissemination of fear, planting a sense of horrified indignation that keeps you riveted throughout." — David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Killers of the Flower Moon" sticks the landing with a moving cameo from Scorsese at the film's conclusion.

Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese sitting on set
Lily Gladstone and Martin Scorsese on the set of "Killers of the Flower Moon."Apple TV+

"In a jarring but brilliant epilogue, Scorsese brings himself into the narrative, delivering a brief but deeply moving speech." — Kristy Puchko, Mashable

"By the time Scorsese himself comes onscreen to deliver the picture's final lines — in an incredibly moving cameo, placing himself alongside the showmen and sensationalists who've told the story of the Osage murders over the decades — we may actually find ourselves surprised that the movie is over. It feels like an open wound right up to the end." — Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

"The fact that this epilogue comes after, oh, 200 minutes of expertly sustained tension is just another sign that in the latter years of his career, Scorsese is upping the ante — in terms of scale, yes, but also ambition." — Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

"It's a spiritual, personal and deeply human parting note that feels as specific and enormous as the rest of the film, bleeding for the departed in reverberating silence." — Tomris Laffly, TheWrap

"Killers of the Flower Moon" received an overwhelming amount of positive reviews, with the exception of one critic at The Wall Street Journal who dubbed the movie a "soulless epic."

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon."
Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon."Apple TV+

The headline for the Wall Street Journal critic Kyle Smith's review referred to the movie as a "soulless epic."

"We're in 1920s Osage territory in Oklahoma, where after an oil discovery the Native Americans are being systematically swindled, robbed and murdered by white people," Smith wrote. "Director Martin Scorsese repeats so many variations on this depressing mistreatment that experiencing the film is akin to being locked in a room with a pair of soulless sadists."

Smith felt that DiCaprio and De Niro were miscast, while Jesse Plemons was underused as a detective investigating the Osage murders.

The critic also described the movie as "a drudge and a dirge" given its lengthy runtime.

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