“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” – ★ ★ ★ ½
“I need a great case!” declares Benoit Blanc, the bored and allegedly best detective in the entire world.
On cue, he receives an elaborate, intricate puzzle box invitation to a murder-mystery party sponsored by an eccentric, super wealthy Elon Musk stand-in named Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who swears he never sent an invite to Blanc.
Thus begins writer-producer-director Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion,” a spectacularly fun and mentally challenging sequel to his enthrallingly breezy 2019 Agatha Christie tribute “Knives Out,” starring erstwhile James Bond actor Daniel Craig as the Southern-drawling detective.
Former supermodel Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), left, scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) and soccer-mom-turned-governor Claire Debella (Westchester native Kathryn Hahn) compare clues at a deadly murder-mystery game in the comic thriller “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” – Courtesy of Netflix
In “Glass Onion,” Johnson ups the thrills and mystery of his original with a dizzying blend of red herrings, flashbacks, confessions and surprises. Just when you think you have the story straight, Johnson lobs a narrative hand grenade into the mix, altering the meaning of everything you’ve experienced so far.
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“Glass Onion” turns out to be more than a Beatles song reference. It exists as a huge transparent sculpture overlooking Bron’s private island where his game will be played to determine who (metaphorically) has murdered him. He instantly regrets allowing the detective to stay: Blanc describes and solves the murder before the game even starts.
Wait … what’s the plot now?
“Glass Onion” is that kind of twisted meddle. Just as “The Menu” fries the pretentiously pompous 1%, Johnson ridicules the superficiality and disintegrated morals of the so-called “disrupters” invited to the party.
Eccentric, superwealthy Miles Bron (Edward Norton) has a heated exchange with a gun-toting influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) in Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion,” a worthy sequel to “Knives Out.” – Courtesy of Netflix
Former supermodel Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) has become a cause célèbre for insensitive thoughtlessness, having compared herself to Harriet Tubman (and assuming her sweat shops made sweatshirts).
Soccer mom Claire Debella (Westchester native Kathryn Hahn) disrupted politics to become the governor of Connecticut.
Influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) carries a gun in his swimming trunks, but, hey, he has a million followers on Twitch.
Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) works for Bron as an in-house scientist, and Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe) has more than unfinished business with her former partner Bron.
Potential murder suspects in “Glass Onion” include Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), left, party girl Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), wealthy billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) and former supermodel Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson). – Courtesy of Netflix
All guests have two things in common: Bron bankrolled their successes, and each guest has a motive to murder the host.
“Glass Onion” may be bigger and busier than “Knives Out,” but not better, for it eventually succumbs to too many conveniently overheard conversations and happy accidents to keep the plot working.
Early on, a disrupter tells Blanc that he would be excellent at playing the Clue board game.
He would. But near the end here, he comes dangerously close to “Clue” the movie comedy.
Although Craig turned in his license to kill at 51, he makes his disarming Hercule Poirot knock-off an engaging character we can enjoy way into his senior years.
If the “Knives Out” movies continue to make the cut, of course.