• Great cast
  • Great direction and story
  • Improves from original
  • Bloated, underused principal cast
  • May be too subversive for whodunnit purists

Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig return for another subversive send-up of the rich in the entertaining, hilarious follow up to “Knives Out”.


World-famous detective Benoit Blanc heads to Greece to peel back the layers of a mystery surrounding a tech billionaire and his eclectic crew of friends.

Rian Johnson is a master at subversion. From the twists and turns of his noir debut “Brick” to the unforgettable sci-fi “Looper,” Johnson always takes a devilish delight in sweeping the rug from under his audience’s feet. The M.O. was no different when he tackled the “whodunnit” subgenre of mystery with 2019’s “Knives Out,” introducing us to the hilariously bad Southern accent-carrying, charming and clever detective Benoit Blanc. With “Glass Onion,” we are introduced to a new group of characters in which a murder is committed and Benoit is tasked with finding out who is the culprit. The suspects: scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson, hilarious) her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), Twitch streamer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) his assistant/girlfriend Peg (Madelyn Cline) and business partner Cassandra Brand (Janelle Monáe, terrific). At the center of all of this is tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), inviting all of his friends to his secluded mansion – the “Glass Onion” – to solve the mystery of his murder. But it’s not quite what you think.

The film begins with all the aforementioned “suspects” receiving a puzzle box from Bron, calling each other (with the exception of Blanc and Brand), trying to decipher the puzzle’s fun, abstract riddles. Inside, there is an invitation to come to Bron’s mansion and solve his “murder.” It’s meant to be a playful, fake murder-mystery (you know, the kind they have on trains and stuff) but as these stories usually go, plans change and there’s more than meets the eye. Everyone has some unbreakable tie to Bron, either staying friends with him for personal interest…or staying close because he has dirt on them. It’s Cassandra, however, who may have the most bones to pick with Bron as he booted her from his billion dollar company she helped built and kicked her to the curb with nothing. Then there’s Blanc – along with everyone else, he shows up, fishing an invitation from the puzzle box and it’s to his appearance, Bron is stumped. He wasn’t meant to receive a box nor be invited, someone’s up to something. After a hilarious twist of events, a real murder mystery occurs when there is an actual dead body and Blanc is left to discover who the culprit is.

What “Knives Out” lacked in diverse locations, “Glass Onion” gains in its production design. The design of Miles Bron’s mansion is gorgeous, from an actual “Glass Onion” (in his office) to the swimming pool to his vanity basement. Everything is purposeful, whether an enlarged Kanye painting or self-portrait adds to Bron’s inflated ego or a tightly secured painting and its sensitivity to sound, rightly reflects the fragility of said ego. There’s also the casting. Daniel Craig once again delivers as Blanc, a clever, focused sleuth who’s not afraid to admit when he may be in over his head in theories and may need a partner-in-crime to help him see the big picture. His over-the-top accent has never been as great or as cemented in character as it is here. Matching him is Janelle Monáe as Cassandra, keeping a good distance away from everything but keeping a close eye on everyone and their possible motivations, she also has a few tricks up her sleeve that are heightened by Monáe’s strong performance. Edward Norton nails the charming, douchey tech billionaire role to a T, turning him into a character you probably wouldn’t trust in real life but just can’t keep your eyes off of as he takes over the screen every time he shows up. Dave Bautista (who’s been on a great run lately) brings in solid laughs as Duke Cody, especially in scenes where he argues with his mother (who he lives with) and Kate Hudson is just undoubtedly the MVP here as blissfully ignorant Birdie. She carries some of the funniest one-liners and moments throughout this film.

If there’s any sin to “Glass Onion”, it’s the bloated principal casting. The only weak links in this cast is Leslie Odom and Kathryn Newton. Usually great in whatever roles they take, there’s just not enough meat (or necessarily, room in the script) on their roles for them to break down and savor. Their characters’ screen time and importance make them seem as if they’re background characters and not really essential to the core action. They are in this film what LaKeith Stanfield was to the original – criminally underused. This is a case of Rian possibly using more than what he needs in terms of casting instead of keeping things focused with a core, skeleton cast. Besides, when there’s a lower body count of suspects, there’s higher tension. But this film sure does excel in its use of cameos – everyone ranging from Stephen Sondheim, Angela Lansbury (the mystery queen), Yo-Yo Ma, Hugh Grant to Natasha Lyonne (and many others) stop by to say hi and get in on the fun. However, the most memorable cameo of them all comes from Ethan Hawke who makes a laconic appearance both hilarious and enigmatic.

Closing Thoughts
With “Glass Onion”, writer-director Rian Johnson adds another well-done, entertaining film to his filmography. Daniel Craig proves himself as a mainstay in the mystery genre with his charming, clever Benoit Blanc character. Even though its excessive casting may give it more than it can chew character-wise, everyone makes good use of their screen time, creating a well-made, clever mystery spectacle. Angela Lansbury (to whom the film is dedicated to) would be proud.


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Blak Cinephile
Blak Cinephile is a cinephile who both loves film and loves to write/talk about it. He has a genuine respect for the art of cinema and has always strived to find the line between insightful subjectivity and observant objectivity while constructing his reviews. He believes a deeper understanding (and a deeper love) of cinema is borne through criticism.


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