Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | December 22nd, 2022
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Rian Johnson, 2022) 3 out of 4 stars.
A good whodunit is a joy to behold. Director Rian Johnson’s 2019 Knives Out more than pleased the viewer with a series of topsy-turvy narrative convolutions that never failed to entertain, thanks not only to the writing but to the phenomenal cast, as well. Given that success, one legitimately wonders whether cinematic lightning could strike twice. Though the sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, often feels like it’s trying just a little too hard to be worthy of its predecessor, it still proves the case for its existence and delivers a mostly rollicking good time.
The only character to repeat from the first film is our detective, Benoit Blanc, played, as before, by Daniel Craig (No Time to Die), outrageously indeterminate southern accent and all. We don’t meet him right away, however, as first Johnson must assemble the new ensemble. He does so via a fascinating puzzle box sent to a group of friends scattered across the United States, played by Dave Bautista (My Spy), Kathryn Hahn (Flower), Kate Hudson (Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton). In a hilarious sequence of intercut phone conversations, they figure out what is inside: an invitation to a party thrown by their billionaire tech-mogul friend Miles Bron (Edward Norton, Motherless Brooklyn).
From there, we’re off to the narrative races, everyone and their assistants and partners (if they have them) gathering on a Greek island for what promises to be a merry weekend. Until, that is, something fishy happens and someone dies. Present by way of mysterious circumstances (to be explained later) are Blanc and Helen Brand (Janelle Monáe, Antebellum), Bron’s former partner, whom he kicked out of the company they co-founded. Each has a role to play in the shenanigans that follow.
And wild those shenanigans are, starting with the titular structure in which everything takes place, a glass-domed palace of a sort over which Bron rules as benevolent despot. The more we learn, however, the more we realize that the invited guests have as much reason to wish him ill as to need his help. It’s a good thing Blanc is there to sort out who wants what.
It’s an enjoyably wild ride, with Monáe the standout performer. Jessica Henwick (The Gray Man) and Madelyn Cline (This Is the Night) also do good work in important supporting roles. In addition, the many celebrity cameos are consistently amusing, sprinkled in atop the story in just the right amounts. Craig has a lot of fun overacting, as do we while watching him, but the shtick might require an overhaul if there is a third film, since it’s getting a little old.
Overall, then, Glass Onion does what we hope it will, despite the seams occasionally showing in the overstuffed threads of the structure. The central mystery is almost beside the point; instead, the zaniness is the goal. Does it satisfy? Yes, but it’s a little less filling than the first installment.