Glass Onion is billed as A Knives Out Mystery, a title that links this generously entertaining movie to its 2019 predecessor. If you're familiar with the first movie, you already know that writer/director Rian Johnson will go heavy on cleverness, unsavory characters, and a plot that weaves its way through a preposterously complex series of events, some shown in flashback.
Aside from the central character, Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc, super-sleuth with a southern accent, the movie boasts all new characters, a group of friends (Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom, Jessica Henwick, Dave Bautista, Madelyn Cline, and Kate Hudson) who are invited to the private Greek island of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton).
Bron wants his guests to spend a weekend playing a game in which he's the murder victim and they must figure out who "killed" the self-appointed "genius." All in fun, right?
Not exactly. Johnson quickly dispenses with Bron’s game and gets down to the movie's real business. When Bron's estranged former business partner (Janelle Monae) turns up, the plot wheels start turning.
It's a pleasure to see Craig play this role again, almost an antidote to his many appearances as James Bond. Manae creates a character of mystery, resentment, and cunning, and the rest of the cast plays along with Hudson enjoying a chance to go over the top as a once-successful model.
The Glass Onion, as it happens, is the name of the bar where the friends met in the days before Bron bought their loyalty by financing their various efforts.
If you want to play around with possible connections to the Beetle song from the White Album (also titled Glass Onion) go ahead, but I’m not sure the movie requires that much head-scratching.
A few explosive flourishes make it seems as if a leftover summer movie breeze blew through Johnson's mind, pushing Glass Onion onto a larger stage than we might expect for this kind of movie. And, a confession: It’s difficult for me to be entirely gleeful when a movie veers into franchise territory.
But these days, such sentiments are about as useful as complaining about the weather, and, for the most part, Johnson acquits himself well, keeping his story percolating through its many fakeouts and feints.