‘Glass Onion’ not as sharp as ‘Knives Out’ but still will please the crowds

Daniel Craig returns as eccentric crime-solver Benoit Blanc in consistently funny mystery set on a private island.

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Joining Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, foreground) on a Greek island getaway are sweatpants mogul Birdie (Kate Hudson, left), Birdie’s assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) and scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.) in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

Netflix

Blanc. Benoit Blanc.

Daniel Craig played James Bond five times on his way to becoming one of the best Bonds ever, and that will always be a signature role for Craig — but wouldn’t it be something if Craig wound up playing the wonderfully eccentric Detective Benoit Blanc in Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” franchise more times than he portrayed Bond? We’re going to get three Blanc movies for sure, from the delightfully subversive and thoroughly amusing original in 2019, this week’s sequel and a third “Knives Out” movie already greenlit by Netflix — and in a recent interview with Total Film, Johnson expressed a willingness to keep on going, “as long as the two of us are still having fun, and as long as we can continue to make these truly new experiences each time.”

Based on “Knives Out,” which only gets better with repeated viewings, and now “Glass Onion,” I’m all for Johnson and Craig collaborating on as many Benoit Blanc mysteries as they see fit. After all, whereas Craig rightfully recognized it was time for him to move on because he had aged out of playing Bond, he could play Benoit Blanc for years and years to come. You’re never too old for seersucker fashion and armchair crime dissection!

‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’

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Netflix presents a film written and directed by Rian Johnson. Rated PG-13 (for strong language, some violence, sexual material and drug content). Running time: 139 minutes. Opens Wednesday at local theaters and streams starting Dec. 23 on Netflix.

“Glass Onion” doesn’t have quite the zest and freshness of the original, and there are times when it’s a little too self-pleased with the social commentary and the meta references, but thanks to Johnson’s crackling good dialogue, the impressive production design and the sparkling performances from Craig and a whole new cast of possible suspects and/or murder victims, this is a whip-smart, consistently funny and sure to be crowd-pleasing affair. (“Glass Onion” will play in theaters for a week before landing on your Netflix home page just before Christmas.)

“Glass Onion” is set in the early days of the COVID pandemic and, save for an extended setup and some flashback sequences, primarily on a private island in Greece owned by Edward Norton’s Miles Bron — and you probably won’t read many reviews that don’t refer to Miles as an Elon Musk-like tech billionaire, and that’s because Miles is an Elon Musk-like tech billionaire. Miles is either a generational genius or a pompous fool who has lucked into huge fortune and global influence (maybe he’s a little bit of both), and every year he stages a lavish reunion for his once tight circle of friends from back in the day, when they were all nobodies who hung out at a bar called the Glass Onion and dreamed of becoming somebodies. With cinematographer Steve Yedlin and the production design team delivering some spectacular visuals from the Greek island of Spetses, Miles welcomes his guests, including:

  • Connecticut Gov. Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), who is gearing up for a run for the U.S. Senate.
  • The stunningly clueless, politically incorrect Birdie (Kate Hudson), a former supermodel turned sweatpants mogul who keeps getting canceled for saying and doing things that should get you canceled, and Birdie’s long-suffering assistant, Peg (Jessica Henwick).

  • Miles’ morally conflicted chief scientist and right-hand man, Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), who carries out Miles’ wacky visions, no matter how impractical and how potentially harmful.
  • A Joe Rogan-esque, macho men’s rights YouTuber called Duke (Dave Bautista) and Duke’s bombshell girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and who names their daughter Whiskey?
  • Miles’ former business partner Cassandra (Janelle Monáe), who stuns everyone by actually showing up, given Miles aced Cassandra out of the company years ago with some ruthless legal maneuverings.

Also along for the weekend getaway is Craig’s Benoit Blanc, though it’s not clear who invited him. It wasn’t Miles, but Miles is thrilled to welcome Blanc, given Miles has planned an elaborate mystery game in which he will be “murdered,” and everyone is a suspect. What a kick to have the world’s most famous detective along for the ride!

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Edward Norton plays tech billionare Miles Bron, party host and owner of the private island.

Netflix

The more Miles pontificates within the halls of his cartoonishly oversized monstrosity of a house, which is filled with all sorts of high-priced artwork mixed with dozens of crystal sculptures and features an upstairs office that’s literally a giant glass onion, and the more we learn about Miles’ interactions with his old “friends,” the more we realize virtually everyone on this island has good cause to want to see Miles murdered for real. Game on! Before the night is over, we’re likely to see some real bloodshed, with Blanc always seeming to be one step behind — or is it ONE STEP AHEAD — of the killer(s).

As the plot is peeled back like the layers of … well, you know, “Glass Onion,” features a mid-movie reveal that is quite corny but rather delicious, changing the tone of nearly every scene that has transpired to that point. We get a steady barrage of celebrity cameos, most of them quite hilarious, and the requisite looks at the same scene from different angles, as if we’re NFL officials in the replay booth. As you’d expect from this cast, the performances are juicy and great fun, with Norton leaning into his despicable bro-billionaire character, who always thinks he’s the smartest person in the room — but we know that’s not really possible when the great Benoit Blanc is sitting right over there, right?

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