Rian Johnson’s hit Knives Out was bound to be a tough trick to replicate, but Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a shiny, energetic effort that does an entertaining job of it. It may feel a bit inorganic and market driven by comparison, but it boasts a similarly clever plot, amusing sense of humor, and enough gorgeous scenery and eyeball kicks for several films.
This time the mystery revolves around an out-of-touch tech industry billionaire named Miles Bron (a perfectly cast Edward Norton). Over the years, Bron has maintained a colorful gallery of fellow “disruptors” in his orbit, and he invites them to his personal, remote island in Greece for an annual retreat. This year’s theme is a murder mystery party, wherein Bron’s friends are invited to solve his “murder.” Lured, as ever, by their shared connection to Bron’s enormous wealth, the five disruptors—fashion designer/model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), progressive politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn), ridiculous men’s rights activist Duke (Dave Bautista), brilliant scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom, Jr.), and Miles’ former business partner Andi (Janelle Monae)—descend on the island. Accompanying them are a couple of plus-ones—Birdie Jay’s beleagured assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Duke’s arm-candy co-star Whiskey (Madelyn Cline)—and one notable newcomer: world-famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Although not part of Bron’s posse, Blanc seems a logical addition, given the party’s murder-mystery theme. But when Bron privately admits that Blanc was not invited, and Blanc later learns the social circle has a more complicated and quarrelsome dynamic than they’re letting on, it becomes clear that something sinister is afoot. Fortunately, Blanc is on the case to put things right.
Glass Onion isn’t perfect; stunt-cast at its margins, beset by occasional Zoom-call evidence of its pandemic production, and definitely more artificial than its predecessor, it propels a unique, fresh, and charming one-off into overt franchise territory. There’s even a hint of thematic formulism: in Knives Out, the entitled suspects also orbit a megarich benefactor, but Glass Onion replaces subtle class commentary with something more brazen and on the nose. Still: I’m totally here for it. Given Hollywood’s recent track record of blockbuster disappointments, Glass Onion stands out as a smart, clever, entertaining romp. Johnson may repeat the formula of Knives Out, but also builds off it, adding unpredictable twists and tangents to keep the mysteries surprising and funny. Craig is once again a hoot as a mutant hybrid of Hercule Poirot and Foghorn Leghorn, and while the supporting cast isn’t quite as nuanced, they do fine work, with Monae and Norton standing out. Are the shenanigans always realistic? No. Are they egregiously silly? Sure! But ultimately Glass Onion is a tasty confection of comedy-mystery ingredients, well worthy of Mr. Blanc’s unique talents.