'Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery' Is Stuck in 2020

Directed by Rian Johnson

Starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Ethan Hawke, Kate Hudson

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Alex HudsonPublished Nov 22, 2022

Much of the fun of Knives Out was how it leaned into its shamelessly retro whodunit formula. The sequel, on the other hand, is very much of the moment. Filmed during the pandemic, which preoccupies the first few scenes, Glass Onion is a satire of self-involved rich people who fly off to a lavish island in the middle of a public health crisis. (Never mind the irony that it actually was filmed by a bunch of rich people on a lavish island in the middle of a public health crisis. Maybe that's part of the joke? Whatever!)

Daniel Craig returns as Southern sleuth Benoit Blanc, who gets invited on a weekend getaway by billionaire inventor Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Miles is hosting a murder mystery game for his group of longtime friends: ex-girlfriend Andi (Janelle Monáe), scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), washed up model Birdie (Kate Hudson, in the role Cameron Diaz was born to play), Connecticut governor Claire (Kathryn Hahn) and MRA YouTuber Duke (Dave Bautista). Knowing that Glass Onion is a whodunit, readers of this review can probably already guess how the murder mystery game turns out.

The pandemic parody isn't nearly as funny as it probably seemed to writer-director Rian Johnson a couple years ago, with jokes about illicit parties and mesh face masks that are thankfully a step above The Bubble, but still feel outdated. And since everyone spent the pandemic yelling at each other on social media, there are some gags about Twitter and cancel culture too. Glass Onion attempts to skewer the moment, rather than offering an escape from it.

Thankfully, the jokes improve significantly with each new layer of the Glass Onion. The twists are decently clever, with absolutely fantastic performances (particularly from Norton as the smug billionaire and Monáe as his enigmatic ex) holding up the slightly tired material that sometimes feels like it was transplanted out of 2020 Twitter discourse. The more inane and random the jokes get — an hourly gong, a bit about hot sauce, etc. — the better.

With its single-location mystery, Glass Onion does a good job of dealing with what were presumably some fairly strict pandemic-era filming protocols. The island setting is gorgeous, with much of the action taking place in an opulent, futuristic mansion that's a delight to look at.

Rian Johnson has said that he wants to continue making Benoit Blanc mysteries, and Knives Out 3 has already been confirmed by Netflix. Glass Onion may not have the charm of the first movie, but it's enough to keep fans watching for future instalments.

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