A review of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (Written and directed by Rian Johnson, PG-13, 139 minutes, Netflix)

The Glass House of ‘Glass Onion’

When “Knives Out” came out in 2019, it was truly a breath of fresh air. At a time when superhero movies inundated the cineplexes, writer-director Rian Johnson’s murder mystery offered a star-studded cast, a clever script, a comedic tone, and excellent pacing offered a welcome alternative. And even though the movie pushed a pro-immigrant narrative, it was secondary to the story itself. None of it felt forced or seemed especially obnoxious.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Evidently learning nothing from the success of his former hit, Johnson decided to push a woke agenda at the expense of everything else. Instead of a tight murder mystery that keeps the audience on its toes, “Glass Onion” is just another amoral mediocre satire that predictably plays out like a leftist fantasy. 

The main object of supposed ridicule is Miles Bron (Edward Norton), an eccentric Big Tech visionary who is patterned after Elon Musk. Surrounding him are other popular targets of woke progressives: Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a men’s rights influencer in the style of Andrew Tate; Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a washed-up model who blurts racial slurs on social media while running a fashion line; Claire DeBella (Kathryn Hahn), a phony Karen-esque Democratic politician who sells out her constituents; and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom, Jr.), a black scientist who compromises himself by keeping his mouth shut and working for Bron.  

The criticism of all these types, including Bron, is remarkably similar: they’re all dumb and self-absorbed. The talented cast struggles to bring any depth or humor to these characters. Besides that, it’s difficult to believe any of them are capable of a coordinated plot to murder. Consequently, the first hour of the movie focusing on these characters is an unrewarding drag. 

Contrasting these characters are the obvious protagonists, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) and Andi Brand (Janelle Monae). Because it wasn’t enough to admire Blanc for his powers of deduction and ridiculous Southern accent, the movie indicates that he is also gay. Meanwhile, Brand is a strong, independent black woman who was the real reason behind Miles Bron’s meteoric success, but was cut out of her rightful share of this fortune when Miles and the other characters betrayed her. Neither character is particularly virtuous, but Brand is a victim, and Blanc is an ally, so they’re higher on the intersectional totem pole than the others. 

In light of this setup, it’s fairly easy to see how this story will play out. The morally and intellectually superior Blanc and Brand will triumph over the opposing caricatures. At no point are protagonists’ motives or actions ever put into doubt, nor are there any redeeming qualities to the characters they take down. Although it could be argued that the first movie had this issue, too (pitting the innocent, sweet immigrant against a depraved privileged white family), there were enough twists and reveals to keep the viewer guessing. 

Unsurprisingly, the actual plot that brings these characters together is riddled with holes and implausibilities. As the Critical Drinker pointed out recently on YouTube, the writing in this movie is terrible and lazy—Chris Lambert also has a great breakdown of the movie’s problems at Colossus Magazine. And it only gets worse as one makes it to the end of the movie, which tries to salvage the whole thing with a superfluous spectacle that reeks of nihilism. Nothing apparently matters, so just blow the whole thing up. 

It’s also worth mentioning the weird nostalgia over COVID lockdowns featured in the opening scenes of the film. The characters talk to one another through Zoom, wear face masks, and even submit to a kind of COVID vaccine. None of this has any bearing on the story but seems to be included to suggest that the film’s characters were also “in this together” and took the virus seriously—if only they all sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” in their bedrooms to really drive the message home. 

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens when politics takes over. It’s more important for Johnson to criticize non-woke stereotypes and try to illustrate their moral inferiority than to create a compelling mystery that’s halfway realistic. There’s no suspense or emotional investment because all of it is contrived to make a political point.

Worse still, even as a parody, it fails because Johnson can’t even see his heroes and villains as actual human beings with both good and bad qualities. It’s OK to portray a strong woman of color with a few flaws. And even if one hates billionaires like Musk, it’s difficult to deny that he’s a brilliant man with a good sense of humor. Not only does incorporating such nuance actually strengthen one’s case against such types, it allows opposing sides to come together in good humor—which is one of the main virtues of comedy.

Considering the production, cast, and built-in fanbase, “Glass Onion” was a perfect opportunity to extend the franchise with a solid installment. It’s a shame that it has become yet another casualty of a woke, out-of-touch filmmaker who couldn’t bring himself to enjoy a good thing because he and his kind have stopped believing in good things altogether. 

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About Auguste Meyrat

Auguste Meyrat is an English teacher in the Dallas area. He holds an M.A. in Humanities and an M.Ed in Educational Leadership. He is the senior editor of The Everyman and has written for The Federalist, The American Thinker, and The American Conservative as well as the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter: @MeyratAuguste

Photo: Netflix