Movie Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Need a little mystery to liven up your holiday weekend? “Glass Onion,” the sequel to the hit “Knives Out,” is in theaters for one week only.
A sequel was inevitable after “Knives Out,” the comic mystery from writer/director Rian Johnson, became a lovable hit in the winter of 2019. In updating the Agatha Christie formula for modern audiences, “Knives Out” proved that it’s always fun to guess whose hands are red — as long as the proceedings are kept fairly light.
With critical raves, an Oscar nomination and a tidy profit, then, comes a sequel, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Clunky though that title may be, it nods to Johnson’s masterstroke; while this is another mystery like “Knives Out,” it is in no way a direct sequel. After we neatly wrapped up the preceding mystery, adding new layers would feel cheap — and putting the characters from the first film into another whodunit would be hokey.
Instead, only Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), the scenery-chewing southern detective born of equal parts Hercule Poirot and Foghorn Leghorn, makes the jump to “Glass Onion.” It’s an all-new mystery with new players, and while the wicked guessing-game concept of the original is intact, the particulars are very different.
Gone is the sweaters-and-snifters New England setting, replaced with a much different kind of opulence: A tech billionaire’s gaudy, if luxurious, private island. Miles Bron (Edward Norton) is an impossibly wealthy entrepreneur who tosses off harebrained ideas for “disruption” and waits for his underlings to turn them into money. He’s no genius himself, as the film is quick to point out — it’s no accident that the character’s name has the exact cadence of a certain real-world analogue who is currently demolishing a major social-media network — but he’s good at capitalizing on opportunities.
And, in turn, giving his friends handouts. The crew that he used to drink with — politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom, Jr.), fashionista Birdie (Kate Hudson) and influencer Duke (Dave Bautista) — have all succeeded thanks to Bron’s largesse, a fact he uses to keep them firmly under his thumb.
“Glass Onion” draws all of these characters to Bron’s island, where he’s planned a high-tech murder-mystery game. Unfortunately, there are a couple of surprise guests — Blanc, who received an anonymous invitation, and Bron’s partner-turned-foe Andi (Janelle Monáe), who has recently taken the gang through a messy court battle. Bron’s murder mystery plans are disrupted quickly — naturally, Blanc solves the whole thing in a matter of seconds — but there’s a real murder on the horizon to spice things up.
Much of the fun in “Glass Onion” is watching the cast have a good time, and they’re quite good at that role; it’s left to Monáe to carry the drama, which she does, in a remarkable performance. The film is frequently funny, just intriguing enough to keep the mystery afloat — it’s long, but the payoff is satisfying — and there’s even a decent bit of social commentary in the mix. I’m not sure how many of these films Johnson wants to make, but he has the skill and wit to do it forever; that’s what Agatha Christie did, and she did pretty well for herself.
My Rating: 8/10
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is playing in select local theaters for one week only beginning Nov. 23. It will debut Dec. 23 on Netflix.