In an era when superheroes and blockbusters rule the box office, writer/director Rian Johnson’s enjoyably clever “Knives Out” resurrected the all-star murder mystery was something of a minor miracle.
Johnson has done it again with his whodunit sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (out of four; rated PG-13; currently streaming on Netflix). It’s a bigger, showier sequel, from the A-list cast to the twistier twists, even if it lacks the original’s witty punch. The script, on the other hand, is taut and surprising, and Daniel Craig’s return as supersleuth Benoit Blanc is a Southern-fried godsend.
Miles Bron (a smarmy Edward Norton) hosts an annual reunion for his longtime friends, and this year is extra special because he has arranged for them to come to his palatial villa on a gorgeous private Greek island for a murder mystery getaway.
The guest list includes estranged ex-business partner Andi (Janelle Monáe); stylish scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.); ethically shady Connecticut governor/senatorial candidate Claire (Kathryn Hahn); over-the-top YouTube influencer Duke (Dave Bautista) and his young girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline); and flighty fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) with her plus-one
But someone has also invited Blanc, which Miles is unaware of, but since the events of the first film, the master detective has become a bit of a thing, so the rich guy is all about having him there and showing off his ridiculously audacious pad. Miles conducts all of his business at The Glass Onion, an ornate man cave filled with breakable treasures and priceless artefacts. It’s also where someone dies, sending the guests scrambling and Blanc off to find the murderer.
“Glass Onion” is another assured piece of original filmmaking from Johnson, who has made his mark on teen noir (“Brick”) and time travel (“Looper”), as well as the murder mystery. The director has concocted an intricate narrative in which there’s always something interesting to see – the puzzle boxes Miles sends his friends are a sight to behold – and the usual suspects aren’t your run-of-the-mill mystery archetypes. (His original 2019 mystery jam included an online troll, and there are even more modern examples in “Glass Onion,” including Norton’s Elon Musk-like personality.)
The problem is that the first “Knives Out” simply cuts differently. Obviously, Evil Chris Evans in a cable-knit sweater helped, but it was a breath of fresh air in so many ways. The characters got along better, and the whole thing felt more intimate and cosy. The sequel starts off strong, with a couple of outstanding reveals that leave you wondering what’s going on, but it loses steam as it approaches the climactic third act.
Craig’s drawling presence works wonders once more – he may have been one of many James Bonds, but only one man can play Benoit Blanc. While Miles and his gang are known as “disruptors,” the ace detective is the real bull in the china shop, keeping everyone on their toes with his uncanny problem-solving abilities. Audiences learn a little more about his personal life and interests (he apparently dislikes “Clue”), but most of his enigmatic layers remain intact, and Craig has fantastic chemistry with Monae, just as he did with Ana de Armas in the original film. (It’s best not to say much about Monae’s role for obvious reasons, but she steals the show in her own right.)
Johnson’s “Knives” will always be sharp as long as Blanc is on the case.