Like the silhouetted killer of a murder mystery, no one saw Knives Out coming. Sneaking into cinemas in 2019 with Daniel Craig taking time out from his day job as Bond, the comic whodunnit struck audiences over the head and made off with more than $300mn at the box office.
Accordingly, we now have a sequel, Glass Onion, set again among the boo-hiss rich, written and directed once more by Rian Johnson, and centred for a second time on Craig’s gentleman detective from the American south, Benoit Blanc. (Ben-waw, to be phonetic.)
The movie was made in 2021 with Covid on everyone’s mind. References to masks and Zoom calls now land like last year’s Christmas cards. But another creative decision proves prophetic. Meet Miles Bron (Edward Norton), a famed multi-billionaire with a monosyllabic surname, red-pilled and loudly disruptive. With Johnson’s crystal ball on overdrive, Twitter itself crops up in the plot through the ugly tweets of one of several grotesques invited to Musk’s private island. (Sorry: Bron’s.)
Among the guests are an airhead fashion icon, muscle-bound YouTuber, fast-rising governor and disgruntled ex-business partner. The cast includes Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr and Dave Bautista. With Johnson having gently asked critics not to reveal spoilers, I’ll extend the courtesy to letting you match actor to role yourself. Although the stars enjoy themselves, you may need to take your fun where you find it.
The barrage of gags does deliver a few choice canapés of snark, the best aimed at Bron’s love for splashy displays of insane wealth. But amid the caricatures and cameos, Johnson is clearly more tickled by the Who than the Dunnit. Once it arrives, the actual murder case is treated like a chore. And for all the sly wit of Craig in a jaunty full-body swimsuit — no more Bond for him — both he and his rococo character feel weirdly underemployed. In place of Blanc, Johnson draws a blank.
In UK cinemas from November 23 for one week only, and on Netflix globally from December 23