Even the director reportedly thought the subtitle “A Knives Out Mystery” was unnecessary.
On a secluded private island off the coast of Greece, billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) gathers an eclectic group of guests. A canceled fashion influencer (Kate Hudson), her hang-on assistant (Jessica Henwick), a men’s rights YouTuber (Dave Bautista), his eye-candy co-host (Madelyn Cline), a politician up for re-election (Kathryn Hahn), and a high-tech inventor (Leslie Odom Jr.), have all arrived at Bron’s invitation to participate in a recreational murder mystery. Two unexpected guests also arrive: Bron’s former business partner (Janelle Monáe) who’d been forced out of the group, and one bemused detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig)… who no one recalls giving an invitation to. Let the games begin!
On the heels of the 2019 hit Knives Out, it was no surprise director Rian Johnson was encouraged to pursue a quick follow-up featuring former Bond actor Daniel Craig with his Southern-accented charms. The title reveal hinted at the new mystery along with a teaser trailer, but the real media attention has focused on the limited theatrical release window of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery over the Thanksgiving holiday, pulled back for an exclusive Christmas run on Netflix. With audiences beginning to pay attention and critics groups compiling their end-of-year awards contenders, the online streamer has its sights set on more recognition, but will fans of the first film be rewarded with their expectations of its follow-up?
Save for detective Blanc alone, Glass Onion is a completely different mystery with an entirely new cast; instead of a family intent on their share of a patriarch’s fortune, the secrets of business partners and associates supply the motives and targets. Rian Johnson adds in more detail this time regarding his feature detective while building up to the crime in question; taking a cue from Agatha Christie, Benoit Blanc goes full Hercule Poirot, Google-famous and already on the job longer than anyone suspects instead of a last-minute secret weapon called in by the local police. While the setting and story are entertaining and attention-worthy, the cast of characters and their circumstances are thinly disguised, and the preachy commentary holds the sequel down from reaching the heights of its predecessor.
It isn’t enough that our suspects have made questionable decisions in their lives; it’s the repeated browbeating that a wannabe Bond villain and his incidental SPECTRE-like organization are entirely idiots. In this, Blanc isn’t provided a worthy adversary; between failing upwards, making uninformed decisions, and having golden parachutes to fall back upon, the group is painted as wholly unworthy of their fortunes. Baked into the plot, Craig’s Blanc suddenly falls back into 007 mode, charged with lighting the fuse on the situation more than solving any mystery. If this feels like a reach, consider the detective’s choice of timepiece: an Easter egg or a revelation?
This follow-up is fun but feels more intent on whimsy than trudging up anything sinister, a balancing act Knives Out managed with a sly smile. The best surprise answers the door when Blanc is called upon, that and a revelation the detective is only truly happy when pulling back the curtains on crime. Where will our globetrotting sleuth end up next? Only the hours watched on Netflix knows for sure, because there weren’t a lot of box office receipts to count.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is rated PG-13 for strong language, some violence, sexual material, drug content, and a mom who knows pretty much everything.
Three skull recommendation out of four