It’s not exactly accurate that writer/director Rian Johnson’s follow-up Knives Out Mystery (2019) is called “-Glass Onion”- because the so-called ‘onion’ is actually a spectacular glass dome – with no layers and, essentially, hollow.
Having relinquished his James Bond persona, Daniel Craig reprises the dapper Southern detective, Benoit Blanc, in this overly intricate Agatha Christie-like murder mystery set on a luxurious private island that’s populated by a motley assortment of colorful guests.
“I need a great case,” Blanc muses.
That cues eccentric new-tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to summon him, along with Bron’s disgruntled former business partner Cassandra ‘Andi’ Brand (Janelle Monae); Claire DeBella (Kathryn Hahn), a former soccer mom-now Governor of Connecticut; Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a gun-toting, right-wing, YouTube men’s-rights celebrity, and his bikini-clad girl-friend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline); ditsy former fashionista-turned-entrepreneur Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick); and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), an idealistic scientist.
They’re all known as ‘disruptors’ and they’ve all been bankrolled by manipulative Bron. Each receives a mysterious hardwood box stuffed with a series of puzzles indicating there’s a lavish weekend ’game’ afoot.
The three-day getaway is theoretical make-believe murder mystery with smug Bron as the supposed victim but his original plan gets complicated when there’s a potentially devastating energy disaster and some real-life homicides occur. Obviously, they’re all suspects. Whodunit?
Problem is: despite some intriguing cameos, none of the cast of characters is remotely likeable, so why should we care who murdered whom?
The film was shot in Budapest, Belgrade and on the Greek island of Spetses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Production designer Rick Heinriches makes Bron’s villa resemble a museum, filled with Banksys, Kandinskys and Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. As an inside joke, one of Bron’s paintings is of Edward Norton’s head on Brad Pitt’s body from Fight Club (1999).
The title refers to The Beatles’ song from The White Album; the first Knives Out was titled after the Radiohead song from their Amnesiac album. And Rian Johnson hints that Benoit Blanc is gay in a flashback scene by showing his partner Phillip (Hugh Grant).
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a silly, showy, sybaritic 7, streaming on Netflix.