Glass Onion

Glass Onion ★★★

Knives Out 2, peculiarly titled Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, is the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the widely acclaimed 2019 mystery from director Rian Johnson. The first Knives Out was a breath of fresh air for detective stories, and along with blockbuster Murder on the Orient Express, helped bring the murder mystery genre back to life. This prompted Netflix to pay a staggering $469 million for the rights to this sequel. While it boasts impressive visuals and plenty of pop culture references, Glass Onion ultimately fails to deliver on the same level as its predecessor.

The movie follows eccentric private investigator Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, who investigates a murder on ostentatious tech tycoon Edward Norton's luxurious private island estate. With any good murder mystery comes a high-profile cast of suspects, and this one does not disappoint. Kate Hudson steals scenes as a fashionable yet frequently canceled fashionista with amusing habits; Dave Bautista plays an alt-right pro men's rights YouTube personality (think a jacked Andrew Tate); and Janelle Monae holds her own in a lead role. Unfortunately, the cast was utilized less this time, and great actors like Leslie Odom Jr. and Kathryn Hahn were sidelined.

On the surface, Glass Onion might seem like just what fans have been waiting for from Knives Out 2 - with the same humor and witticisms as before but with a significant boost of pop culture references; however, there are too many jokes that fall flat or references mistaken for punchlines in this installment. I don't even want to think about how some of the allusions to pop culture will age (will anybody care or know about Jared Leto's kombucha or Jeremy Renner's hot sauce brand in 10 or 20 years from now upon viewing?).

The plot itself is also somewhat predictable at times - when all is revealed about who is responsible for the supposed murder, it lacks that same punch from before. Even if it became predictable by the third act in the first film, the tension continued to build when it needed to and wasn’t cut by jokes. With that being said, similarly to Knives Out, by design we aren't allowed to fully figure it all out until the reveal, making the task of trying to solve it for the first time an impossibly tiresome and fun challenge. However, Johnson still manages to surprise viewers in clever ways when it comes to how he probes into the case after an early disclosure is out of the way. Several twists and turns along the way help keep viewers engaged throughout, and while Craig is slightly less effective overall than the first time around (simply due to much more screen time), he still has fun in his more central role here.

All in all, Glass Onion offers some great moments that will make fans of the original smile but isn't quite up there with its predecessor when it comes down to unraveling the case and leans more into the comedic elements than the first. Because of this, some serious moments and dramatic reveals are less effective and cut short. It might have some impressive visuals and plenty of pop culture references, but more is needed to make up for its lack of originality and surprise factor compared to Rian Johnson's first outing in this series. Ironically, like most of the characters in the film, this movie is flashy, extravagant, and sparkling but shallow and empty. While far from a perfect murder mystery, it's worth seeing if you enjoyed Knives Out 1 - just don't expect it to blow your mind like before. If you didn't like the first one don't even bother with this. It is notably weaker. 6/10

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