Challenging to take on its successful predecessor, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery retains the razor-sharp formula, with a setup that feels even more flashily like an Agatha Christie homage, before a supremely clever series of turns. Writer-director Rian Johnson once again puts together a solid cast behind Daniel Craig, but it’s his use of language – with not a word wasted – that ultimately gives the sequel its edge.
Netflix opportunistically jumped in to acquire the Knives Out franchise and, in a departure from its usual “Strike the filmmakers’ egos” approach to theatrical distribution, will actually give the film a broad, week-long release before it hits streaming -Service reached in late December. Most people will probably still wait to consume it in the comfort of their own home, but for those who take the plunge, it’s sure to be well-received by appreciative audiences.
After the family dynamic in “Knives Out,” which gave everyone a motive to kill the patriarch, Johnson tries his hand at a different setting, with an eccentric billionaire, Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who invites his old friends on a crime escape ( no less during Covid) on his remote Greek island, where they are tasked with solving his “murder”.
However, the game takes an unexpected turn, beginning with inviting Craig’s master detective Benoit Blanc to remain equally brilliant and odd.
The eclectic list of guests/potential killers (and/or victims) includes a fashion designer/social media lottery (Kate Hudson) and her partner (Jessica Henwick), a fitness influencer (Dave Bautista) and his girlfriend/sidekick ( Madelyn Cline), a scientist (Leslie Odom Jr.), a politician (Kathryn Hahn), and most importantly, Miles’ estranged former business partner (Janelle Monáe).
Although the latest film obviously lacks the sense of discovery that welcomed the original — and even turned Chris Evans’ sweater into a must-have piece (Chris Evans not included), Johnson is smart enough to recognize that this is about reloading and not reinvention is about, the change in venues can still freshen up the formula.
Additionally, Craig is clearly having fun with this new signature role, trading in his tuxedos and physicality for a more cerebral form of crime-fighting, with a Hercule Poirot-esque aptitude for eavesdropping and a Foghorn-Leghorn Southern twang.
In one of these “Kneel before Zod!” Flexs, Netflix reportedly paid a fortune to acquire these sequels, which, honestly, is exactly the kind of deal that threatens to take a fun little movie and screw it up by setting unreasonable expectations.
Thankfully, Glass Onion finds new levels to explore, in a way that makes the prospect of a new Knives Out Mystery every few years seem like a perfectly reasonable idea of where and how to consume it.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery opens in US theaters on November 23 and on Netflix on December 23. It is rated PG-13.