Movie Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

You ever watch something and just think: God, if only someone had said a few more “no”s?

That’s how I felt after I walked out of Glass Onion, the follow up to 2019’s incredibly popular and brilliant Knives Out, written and directed by The Last Jedohnson himself. Not that someone should have said no to the movie entirely, because it’s actually a lot of fun for the most part, but just that it could have been downright brilliant if someone had steered things in a tighter and more focused direction.

Following Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as he dives into another mystery, this time one held at the luxury island resort of billionaire Miles (Edward Norton), I’m not going to sit here and say there isn’t a lot to recommend to this movie. The ensemble cast (featuring some of my personal favourites like Dave Bautista and Kathryn Hahn) is universally fantastic, with Janelle Monae a particular standout in her tricky dual-handed role. Edward Norton, actually trying, is an utter delight as the out-of-touch Miles, and the constant jabs at class division and Rich People Nonsense are pretty fun. The mystery is solid, even if some of it feels a bit blunt, and there are enough fun diversions to keep the resolution from being too obvious.

But Glass Onion feels like it would have benefitted hugely from a few more nos. I get it – after the success of the first one, I can see why the studio would take it’s hands off the wheel and let Rian Johnson pretty much do as he pleased. With a long runtime, a huge cast, and a story that doubles back on itself to pretty much start from scratch halfway through, even at it’s bare bones it’s already pushing up against being too much for it’s own good. But then, on top of that, it’s packed out with characters and cameos we really don’t need, and it gets in the way of the great stuff the film has to offer.

With the original Knives Out being such an instant hit, it makes sense that the follow-up would be full of A-listers wanting to throw in their cameos just to say they’ve been in it. Ethan Hawke, Huge Grant, Natasha Lyonne, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Sondheim, and Serena Williams are among some of the near-constant cameos in Glass Onion. It’s not an awful thing, exactly, but these indulgent little moments that add nothing significant to the plot, and it took me right out of the story to be reminded of what a success the first one was in the real world. In a movie that comes in at an ungainly two and a half hours, too, there comes a point where you start wondering how much tighter this would feel if they just cut a few of these moments. A recurring and genuinely pointless Noah Segan (a frequent collaborator of Johnson) is particularly frustrating, and near-catastrophically unfunny.

Glass Onion also struggles a little with the lack of a real straight man character (and I’m not talking about Hugh Grant playing Benoit Blanc’s live-in domestic partner, either). Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan’s character in the original movie served as a touch of sanity to cut through the intense silliness and overblown upper-class nonsense that plot offered, and here, we’re lacking someone who does the same. Everyone is turned up to eleven, and it feels, at times, like too much of a good thing. Gorge on luxury chocolate truffles for two days straight and you’re going to be craving some good old chippy chips by the end of it, you know? I think Jessica Henwick’s character, as Kate Hudson’s assistant, could have filled this role, but she’s sidelined to the point where I’m not even sure what she’s doing in the film, a real shame given Henwick’s enormous talent and charisma. I wanted something to cut through all of the absurdist daftness but instead at every turn it’s cranked up another notch.

Glass Onion is far from a bad movie – in fact, for the most part, it’s really entertaining, a cavalcade of enormous characters played by brilliant actors throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the daftness Johnson’s script offers. But ultimately, a sense of indulgence in the script and the length of the movie makes it less of the iconic mystery it should have been, and more of an exercise in what the lack of a sensible amount of no will do to a movie.

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By Lou MacGregor

(header image via Empire)

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