Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

Glossy ‘Glass Onion’ has plenty of ap-peel

Taking its cue from Clue, the latest edition of the “Knives Out” franchise departs stodgy New England for a fabulous Greek island where the Southern-fried sleuth, Benoit Blanc, is tasked with solving the mystery of who slew … well, I won’t say who. Best you discover that for yourself.

Like the beloved board game, writer-director Rian Johnson uses his “Glass Onion” to “clue” us in on multiple suspects with varying motives for wishing dead any of the five invitees to the classy – and glassy – island retreat of multi-billionaire Myles Bron. As part of a game, each has been consigned to solve the fictional murder of their host, a narcissistic, malaprop-spouting blowhard who made his fortune under false pretenses. He’s played by Edward Norton at his slimy best.

But why pretend when so many want to off him for real? Might I add that these would-be murderers are his so-called “friends”? They include the washed-up fashion model, Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), inventor of “Sweetie” sweatpants; sitting Connecticut governor, Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn); YouTube’s popular men’s rights advocate, Duke Cody (Dave Bautista); brilliant scientist, Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.); and Myles’ ex-business partner at Alpha enterprises, Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe).

The gang, the self-proclaimed “Disruptors,” are joined by a couple of hangers-on in Duke’s sensuous girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and Birdie’s beleaguered personal assistant, Peg (Jessica Hardwick). But how did Daniel Craig’s master detective, Benoit Blanc, wind up here? As to the who, what and why of the central crime, all will be revealed in due time.

To be honest, it’s not much of a mystery. But it sure is fun getting to where you know you’re going, thanks to a handful of clever twists and an abundance of sharp-witted dialogue poking fun at the loathsomeness of the sycophants and grovelers prevalent among the upper one percent. In that respect, “Glass Onion” isn’t all that different from other recent entries into the eat-the-rich genre, such as “The Menu,” “Triangle of Sadness” and “The White Lotus.” But what the “Onion” has that the others don’t, is Monsieur Blanc.

As he demonstrated in “Knives Out,” Craig is such a treat you simply can’t get enough of his deadpan quips and folksy bon mots. Remove him from the equation, and “Glass Onion” becomes just another dim bulb. It’s a kick watching Craig mosey about the multi-leveled, glass digs created by production designer Rich Heinrich. You revel in Blanc’s capacity to stay two steps ahead of a crew of dunderheads who aren’t half as smart as they think they are.

But what gives the movie its panache is Craig’s interaction with Monáe, who is deservedly generating Oscar buzz for her affecting portrayal of Andi, a wronged woman if there ever was one. Andi emerges as Blanc’s Watson. And what may initially seem elementary evolves into an intricate scheme thriving on the chemistry between the two actors, not unlike Craig’s irresistible connection with Ana de Armas in the original.

Still, as a whole, this ensemble doesn’t hold a bloody dagger to the fabulous bunch in “Knives Out.” Perhaps in part because the franchise has lost some of its something-new luster. At times, it feels as if Johnson is trying to fit “Glass Onion” into a “Knives Out” construct, and it doesn’t always work.

Yet, resistance is futile. And the finale, involving fire, fury and fab fashions by Jenny Egan, is superb for no other reason than it utilizes the Mona Lisa more ingeniously than any film I’ve ever seen. Johnson then blissfully caps it off by pushing play on the splendid John Lennon composition from which the movie draws its title. It’s alleged that “Glass Onion” was intended as a satire on the “Paul is dead” conspiracy that had Beatles fans denying what was right in front of them. So it is here, as Johnson’s quirky characters see only what they want to see, often to their own detriment. Not us. We can see clearly through this Glass Onion, and what we observe, I can safely say, is killer.

Movie review

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Rated: PG-13 for strong language, drug content, some violence, sexual material

Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista and Leslie Odom Jr.

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

Runtime: 140 minutes

Where: Streaming on Netflix

Grade: B

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