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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

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The title---Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery--begs you to recognize its franchise capability, and it’s right. Here is a retro whodunit very much in the present with irony aplenty, eccentric and dicey characters around each bright corner, a plot to make the best Sherlock Holmes/Hercule Poirot aficionados wonder if Daniel Craig’s dense genius, Benoit Blanc, shouldn’t be in their little lineup, and a writer/director, Rian Johnson, arguably topping his first “Knives” for wit and challenging setups.

Regardless of any lineup, The Knives Out franchise has a sequel winner promising a long stay among whodunit classics. Although Benoit seems not to get who is murdering, he is gracious enough at the end to point out what he got and we didn’t.

Once more, in now a tradition, the potential murderers are sequestered so the camera doesn’t have to look far to see what they’re up to. Ranking with the best of self-absorbed rich bad guys, Miles Bron (a smarmy, slippery Edward Norton—think Elon Musk) assembles five of his buds to his glass-onion mansion (about as updated a mansion from the last one as could be possible), replete with glass artworks and a world-renowned classic painting, all candidates for outrageous larceny.

Bron’s friends, or “disruptors” as he calls them, receive large boxes containing puzzles leading to the next one until all is solved by the “world’s greatest detective.” The box being figurative for the mystery itself works well as part MacGufffin and part crime clue.

The characters are wholly devious and delicious: former super model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson delightfully over-the-top naughty); Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), tight soccer mom turned politico; Duke Cody (beefy-as-always Dave Bautista), an influencer with a million followers on Twitch and maybe as many guns; Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odon Jr.), Miles’s senior scientist; and Andi Brand (Janelle Monae), Miles’s former business partner ill-advisedly returning from the first “Knives” for more punishment.

And so it goes. A raft of interesting characters and a slew of occurrences to divert. Somebody murders-- Benoit will solve the mystery. Although even I, who usually gets sucked in to any brainy film contrivance, figured it out before Benoit. Maybe that is another of Johnson’s gambits where he subverts the genre by modifying it for a modern, cynical audience. That’s us, Dear Reader. Enjoy a classic in the making.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com

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