Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/25/22
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, cameos by Hugh Grant, Ethan Hawke, Angela Lansbury, Serena Williams

An eclectic group of friends are invited to a lavish party on a private island by the eccentric billionaire, Miles Bron (Edward Norton). The theme of the party is a murder mystery, where the guests have to uncover who "killed" their host. World-renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) also shows up to the party after receiving an invitation, surprising Bron who claims to know nothing about it. Someone wanted Blanc at that party, and every guest has a reason to kill Bron for real.

It's a light and breezy murder mystery that aims to please, and it's readily apparent that writer/director Rian Johnson enjoys having fun with the characters. While "Knives Out" (2019) was a complex and harrowing tale, "Glass Onion" is much more simplistic and spends most of its time just satirizing and ridiculing rich people and their stupid problems. Blanc is completely out of his element being surrounded by such extravagant wealth, and his awkwardness is a constant source of amusement. But is it just an act? Daniel Craig gives a solid performance, and his Foghorn Leghorn act seems to be considerably dialed back. Without giving too much away, Edward Norton plays the exact same douchebag character that he played in "The Italian Job" (2003), which makes me wonder if he's even capable of other roles. Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, and Leslie Odom Jr. are all extreme parodies of annoyingly clueless rich people, and Hudson has a ball with her vacuous birdbrain performance. The only relatable and sympathetic characters are Hudson's long-suffering personal assistant (Jessica Henwick) and Bautista's smarter-than-she-looks girl toy (sexy Madelyn Cline). But the real standout is Janelle Monáe, who is stunning throughout, and evokes the same tension and empathy as Ana de Armas in the original. She's the enigmatic lynchpin that ties the mystery together and pulls it apart.

While I'm way too dumb to figure out murder mysteries, the film doesn't even give you a chance, so it's best to just turn off your brain and enjoy the ride as everything unfolds. The mystery is deceptively simple, and the film mainly revolves around audience manipulation, which leaves you feeling deceived and betrayed. In fact, the entire second half of the film is an extended flashback that retells the whole story from a different perspective, before Blanc finally shows his hand. Regardless, it's still fun and satisfying to watch all of the pieces fall into place, even though I groaned and rolled my eyes at a handful of well-worn genre clichés. Overall, the film feels like comfort food, and something that you could easily watch at a gathering of family or friends. There's at least one more "Knives Out" film already in the works, and I'm looking forward to seeing what situation Det. Blanc finds himself in next.