Glass Onion review: Daniel Craig returns in hilarious murder mystery sequel

Rian Johnson proves his Benoit Blanc franchise is anything but a one hit wonder.

The cast of Glass Onion.
(Image: © Netflix)

What to Watch Verdict

Glass Onion is a biting satire about billionaire smoke and mirrors that sacrifices some whodunit suspense to let Benoit Blanc lay into the moronic upper crust of society.

Pros

  • +

    The cast! No faults

  • +

    Bashing the wealthy elites with insight

  • +

    Final act keeps the laughs coming

Cons

  • -

    The structure feels off due to a long flashback sequence

  • -

    The whodunit doesn't hit as hard

  • -

    More entertaining than tense, only a slight ding

Rian Johnson's whodunit sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a hilarious farce about lifestyles of the rich and shameless. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) roasts buffoonish million-to-billionaire cults of personality who've become evermore popular in the American news cycle (those who own bird apps or former presidents), all while solving another deadly parlor case. Netflix spares no expense for Johnson's lavish private island locale made of translucent domes and idyllic resort vibes, nor does the star-studded Glass Onion cast waste their spotlight. Glass Onion is a riot of a continuation for Johnson's famed Southern detective, even if the actual whodunit isn't wound as tightly as before.

We meet Benoit between assignments, playing Among Us in his bathtub with celebrity friends via Zoom. A mysterious puzzle box appears on his doorstep from mega-rich tech visionary Miles Bron (Edward Norton), which once solved presents an invitation to his private island for a weekend murder mystery. 

Bron welcomes his closest friends and business partners — The Disruptors, he calls them — for yearly gatherings, and this year Benoit's added to raise the stakes. Model mogul Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), alpha male streamer Duke (Dave Bautista) and his partner Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), political superstar Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), renowned scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Miles' former business partner Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe) make up the guests. It's supposed to be a relaxing getaway with a silly competition, which it is — until a real body appears and Blanc's presence becomes necessary.

Glass Onion is less about whodunit complexities than Knives Out by intention. Blanc is a brilliant detective who can unravel the most intricate webs of lies and here he is stuck on a remote island with celebrities of all fields who've bartered decency for fame. Humor stems from Benoit's interactions with Miles as he misuses $20 words (some that don't exist) or reveals the true impetus of relationships driven by greed. 

There are some structural challenges to Glass Onion that feel choppier — the script takes its time getting to the corpse, then there's a massive flashback middle act that hits like a wall — but Benoit is always on his game. The real mystery afoot is how dunderheads can become so rich, powerful and beloved, which Benoit cracks through a comical journey of cleverness and frustration.

Johnson's production design team deserves awards recognition for their creation of Miles' "Glass Onion" estate. At the center of an architecturally ornate compound is a massive shatterable dome — an elaborate reinvention of The Disruptors' favorite city bar before they all become superstars. Intricate glassy sculptures physically manifest the idea behind a "glass onion," something presented as layered and yet plainly visible to the core. It'd make a dazzling Bond villain's hideout with the suspended sportscar on a rooftop platform (no garage, duh) to see-through pianos, amplifying unnecessary extravagance to absurd levels. Glass Onion is a visual showcase from sets to costumes (fashionista Birdie peacocks with rainbow dresses and flamboyant swimwear), putting that Netflix production money to tremendous use.

As mentioned, the roster of suspects is as noteworthy as the actors behind performances. Bautista and Hudson play oblivious self-dunking victims of their own success so well. Odom Jr. and Hahn represent saner minds but who are racked with the guilt of suckling from Miles' "golden teet," highlighted by Odom Jr.'s calm face hiding moral wounds and Hahn's signature flip-outs. Henwick and Cline are anything but sidekicks or arm candy, getting their standout moments as interrupters to the one percent's status quo. Oh, and Monáe, the shunned "Disruptor" who had her fortune and company taken by Miles? Yes, please. 

Janelle Monae in Glass Onion

Janelle Monáe in Glass Onion (Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

Then, of course, there's Craig as the sharp-witted investigator with a whimsical vocabulary who steals scene after scene, doubling down on Benoit Blanc's franchise appeal, as case number two is just as entertaining.

Glass Onion is a murder mystery after all, so we won't discuss much more in terms of plot. Johnson successfully shoots a sequel that ensures we'll be lining up for these Knives Out mysteries as long as he makes them. You're here for Benoit Blanc mocking the simplicity of Clue, Edward Norton tossing the guitar a Beatle wrote "Blackbird" on like it's meaningless or Kate Hudson's inability to tell her lamp from her Alexa, all of which do not disappoint.

Any problems are with structure and length, which still make Knives Out feel like the superior. But that's almost an unfair comparison because Glass Onion is still delightfully rollicking and quite the gut-busting ride, complete with A-plus cameos. Johnson sure knows how to string suspense and skewer deserving parties with flavor. Here's to more tasty bites of Benoit Blanc's adventures to come.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is now streaming worldwide on Netflix.

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.