Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

M, 139 minutes

4 Stars

 

Sartorial acumen. Daniel Craig in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Image courtesy Netflix

 

Review by © Jane Freebury

When the world’s greatest detective turns up as a house guest on a private Greek island, he seems like the odd one out in a small select group of beautiful people. It’s hard to imagine how the host, a tech billionaire spoofing Elon Musk, could have become friends with someone quite so uncool. A genuine sleuth wasn’t part of the master plan to stage a murder and find out who did it, anyway. So, who was it that invited Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), with his slow southern drawl and bad fashion sense, to come along?

Eccentric, brilliant and a total nutjob, Miles Bron (Edward Norton), tells his friends that the purpose of their visit to his island home, the Glass Onion, is to figure out, once he is murdered, who it was who killed him. Freaky? Deviant? You bet, and yet, daft as it is, Knives Out II has more than a few smarts too. It is bristling with clever ideas.

The film’s off to a great start with terrific opening sequences covering the sending out of invitations to the guests. The plan is as clever and perverse as the host, Bron himself. His handwritten invitations lie deep inside a large wooden box through which his friends have to work their way, through the layers of games like noughts and crosses and other puzzles, to reach the card with their name on it in the very middle.

Social media savvy influencers and entrepreneurs, beautiful disrupters, every one

Like the presiding glass onion, the plot within a plot within a plot is integral to Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Writer-director Rian Johnson has a slim filmography that includes Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but his work has attracted an impressive list of awards and nominations, like the Academy Award nomination for his screenplay for the first Knives Out of 2019. The screenplay for this follow up, Glass Onion, is a likely candidate for another nomination.

The house party guest list is nothing if not exclusive. A short who’s who of billionaire Bron’s dear friends, social media savvy influencers and entrepreneurs. Beautiful disrupters, every one. Although they might have seen better days, they are the go-to folk to ensure a party is ever dull. Duke (Dave Bautista), a buffed vision in tatts, is a men’s rights activist who has made his fortune in rhino horn penile enhancement. Birdie (Kate Hudson), a former supermodel who once adorned front covers and now dictates fashion taste through her designer label. Claire (Kathryn Hahn) might still have been a soccer mom in beige, but she has gotten lucky and been elected as a State Governor on a renewables ticket. And so on. As the excesses of today’s world become the butt of the film’s joke, Glass Onion pokes endless fun at the successful, rich and famous.

Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, centre) and the gang in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Promotional image courtesy Netflix

Bron’s former business partner, Cassandra/Andi (Janelle Monae), is a disaffected exception. She travels to the island too, but she is no party girl. It seems, there are scores to settle with Bron. Will the eventual murderer be a shoe in?

For anyone who has ever longed to see the current James Bond send himself up, this is your big chance

Craig is obviously having a very good time of it here, swapping the cut-glass accent for a dopey drawl, and showing complete lack of sartorial acumen. The accent doesn’t sound quite right to my ear, but his hokey, endearing character grows on you. While his simple decency and professionalism sure show up the rest of them, and it turns out he has a very good ear for language.

Like the Lennon-McCartney song of 1968 from which its title is drawn, the film references many things but doesn’t try to draw them into a coherent whole. This probably doesn’t matter for a scattergun satire about today’s uber-rich. It’s more important that some of the missiles reach their target.

Wordy and full of amusing, clever ideas, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery isn’t as laugh-out-loud as its predecessor. It may be that the pacing doesn’t allow the jokes a lot of time on screen, as Johnson’s brisk direction keeps things moving along. It may be that a satirical spoof about the uber rich prompts another kind of reaction anyway, and it’s not helpless laughter.

First published in the Canberra Times on 26 November 2022. Jane’s reviews also appear on Rotten Tomatoes