"Glass Onion" another sharp-witted, endlessly entertaining ensemble whodunit in the "Knives Out" canon

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

Writer-director Rian Johnson returns with Daniel Craig’s detective Benoit Blanc solving another murder mystery in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” As the subtitle promises, it is a follow-up to 2019’s “Knives Out,” a sensationally entertaining ensemble whodunit, even if the appearance of Blanc is the only connective tissue. Otherwise, “Glass Onion” can stand on its own, and it just about equals—and in some cases, surpasses—its predecessor in terms of sharp-witted writing, expert use of the ensemble, and the barbed subtext that the elite 1% still sucks. It really is that much fun. 

Set in 2020 during COVID, the film begins with a group of old pals being invited to the private Greek island owned by smug, craven billionaire and self-proclaimed “disrupter” Miles Bron (Edward Norton) for a murder mystery party. (Miles’ name-dropping and malapropisms never stop being funny.) His friends who have all solved the layered puzzle-box invitations include vapid fashion icon Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), accompanied by her level-headed assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick); politician Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn); chemist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.); men’s-rights YouTuber Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) and his sexpot girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline); and Miles’ ex and longtime business partner Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), the one guest everyone is surprised to see. Oh, and detective Benoit Blanc (Craig), who’s been out of mystery work during the pandemic, seems to have received an invitation as well. Of course, there are as many layers as an onion — a glass onion.

For a meticulously plotted, intricately edited potboiler, “Glass Onion” is still the comically looser of the two “Knives Out” films,” and kind of better for it. In lieu of the contained feeling of being in that Thrombey mansion is the breezy, anything-can-happen air in the lavish Glass Onion home, which comes with a ridiculous on-the-hour dong. It is often uproariously funny and fleet-footed, crackling with tension when it should, and just as marvelously cast and crafty without a wasted scene or a throwaway detail (i.e. hot sauce and hard kombucha). There's a long game, of course, and as the film begins laying out what's really been transpiring, Rian Johnson masterfully recounts the chain of events from all vantage points. One wouldn’t dream of revealing how the serpentine plot finally shakes out, but right down to an explosive, beautifully staged denouement, it’s all very satisfying. 

Like Ana De Armas being the heart of “Knives Out,” Janelle Monáe is arguably the lead here aside from Craig’s Blanc, and she is spectacular. Without giving anything away, Monáe gets to be seething and find subtlety in what she’s asked to play. Everyone else gets to run with the material, too, particularly Kate Hudson, who has never reached the dippy comic gold of her mother, Goldie Hawn, more than now as the sexy yet clueless Birdie Jay. Kathryn Hahn and Leslie Odom Jr. may get the least shading in playing the more pragmatic characters of the bunch, but even more so than its predecessor, Rian Johnson gives everyone a moment to be remembered by overall. Daniel Craig gets to work in an even goofier register than last time (and be more fashionably dressed) with his “Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl” as the Hercule Poirot of this beginning franchise. In the smallest of roles, Noah Segan (another “Knives Out” returnee but playing a different character) is very funny without saying too much; all he has to do is saunter by. Along the way, too, there are several fun cameos that don’t feel random. 

The corrupt and opportunistic rich would seem like an all-too-easy target again, but Rian Johnson still finds plenty of wit and panache. With another clever, involving whodunit and a not-too-shabby ensemble being utilized to its fullest, “Glass Onion” is richly satisfying, a rapturous entertainment that works on every level. When Blanc returns for another, we’ll be there. 

Grade: A -

Netflix released “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (140 min.) for one week only in theaters on November 23, 2022, followed by a streaming release on December 23, 2022.