‘Glass Onion’, a ‘Knives Out’ sequel, is a wicked, vainglorious eat-the-rich satire
You want to see what a $469 million movie looks like? Half the answer is delicious whodunnit Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, the first in a preposterously lucrative two-picture deal that Netflix struck with writer/director Rian Johnson and his team. Don’t worry, that money’s on the screen: the sprawling Greek island estate in this luxe murder romp makes the Thombey mansion in Knives Out looks like a quaint B&B. How disorienting to see a talky ensemble dramedy rival the budget of Thor: Love and Thunder.
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY ★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista
Running time: 139 min
Both ridiculously opulent and opulently ridiculous, Glass Onion skewers the rich while wallowing in their excesses. It’s broader and brassier than Knives Out, with stakes as high as civilization itself. And yet its mystery, though convoluted, is also kind of silly—peeling back its titular layers reveals an impressive vapidity at heart. “It’s so dumb!” declares master detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). You’ll be prone to agree, albeit through a smile.
Johnson’s big-budget whodunnit is also a big-swing at the world’s biggest existential threat: the megalomanical billionaire tech gurus who seemingly run every facet of our lives. In this case, the target is Miles Bron (Edward Norton), head of tech conglomerate Alpha and a heady mix of Silicon-Valley wunderkinds like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. The movie never really says what Alpha does, although there’s a space division and a digital media wing—just insert the phrase “crypto scalability” and you’ll get the gist of it.
Also an existential threat? All the eye-rolling sycophants surrounding Bron, or as he calls them, “My beautiful disrupters.” There’s Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a famous-for-being-famous ditzy model/influencer whose thoughtlessly offensive digs on social media are the reason her put-upon assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) keeps having to confiscate her cell phone. There’s Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a men’s rights activist who hawks rhino horn boner pills to teens on Twitch, along with his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), whose hot bod belies a cool head. Rounding out the group are brittle Connecticut Governor and Senate hopeful Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), plus Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), Bron’s hipster rocket scientist.
Tsk-tsking the group is Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), Mile’s scowling ex-business partner whose presence unsettles them—mainly because she doesn’t mince words, and she knows all of their careers depend in unique ways on Bron’s largesse. “Each of you is holding onto Miles Bron’s golden titties,” growls Andi as the others stiffen. Sounds like they all have pretty good reasons to kill Bron, which is why Bron’s blithe decision to throw a murder mystery party on his secluded private Mediterranean isle feels so apt.
The wild card is gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who shows up, perplexed but delighted, with an invite, even though Bron didn’t actually ask him to come. Seems like a secret someone wants him on site if and when any crimes need solving. And they do, very quickly.
Brace for curveball revelations, corkscrew plot twists, reversed timelines, and one recurring gag after the next—from Jared Leto’s Hard Kombucha to Jeremy Renner’s Small-Batch Hot Sauce—that actually influence the story in surprising ways. Glass Onion is a gleeful good time, with cartoonish characters delivering tangy zingers and navigating a labyrinthine array of narrative threads. Johnson’s delightful script virtually hums with clever constructions, all tied together with Blanc’s effortless guile and baroque “fiddlesticks” syntax. “You vainglorious buffoon!” he yells at the ultimate culprit in the film’s final stretch, and there’s not a better summary statement for the film. Buffoonery abounds among these vain folks, and—while there’s really no there there—the whole film is still pretty glorious.