- Run Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
- Studio: Netflix
- Director: Rian Johnson
- Where to Watch: Netflix
The pandemic has not been kind to Benoit Blanc. He is a man who needs to work and his profession does not allow for a work-from-home lifestyle. When he receives an invitation to a private island from the world’s leading tech billionaire Miles Bron, it’s impossible to resist. Blanc is eager to take part in Bron’s murder mystery dinner weekend and is one of several players invited. Joining Blanc are some of Bron’s closest friends. There’s a disgraced model and her assistant, a men’s rights activist and his girlfriend, a scientist, a politician, and his ex-business partner. But what Blanc quickly discovers is that each of these guests has the motive to kill Bron for real after one of the guests falls dead.
Rian Johnson, Star Wars boogeyman for some and whodunnit genius for others, returns to the world he created in 2019’s Knives Out. The great detective Benoit Blanc is once again played by Daniel Craig and his comedic delivery with Johnson’s idiosyncratic storytelling in full force for the two-hour twenty-minute runtime. However, Johnson’s unconventional writing is a little annoying at times. The story is jam-packed with celebrities and name-drops about every 20ish minutes. it gets old when Serena Williams or Jeremy Renner interrupts the story for a joke that’s not even funny and only serves to remind the audience just how rich Miles born is. The first half of the movie also makes Blanc look like a bumbling idiot and he only returns to Knives Out form in the second half of the movie. I can’t decide if it was intentional or not because it seems smooth after the fact, but in the moment it felt jarring and odd. The movie serves up a little more social commentary than I remember in the first one, viscerally attacking the .0001% (rightfully so). But in doing so, the movie felt like it took forever to really get going. Maybe I’ve got rose-colored glasses for the original, but I was much more engaged right from the start with the original than the sequel. That said, it’s still an easy story to follow with great drama and engaging motives from all the characters.
The eclectic cast of Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., and Janelle Monáe is excellent on paper. But it just doesn’t work for me in the same way that the original cast did. Part sequel syndrome, part clunky cast in practice, part Netflix bias throwing money at a cast that doesn’t mesh together all that well. A lot of interactions fell flat and felt incredibly shallow at times. Craig is the biggest name and the brightest spot in all of it, but it’s tough to compare this cast to the original and not be disappointed in how it panned out. Monáe is a close second to Craig in her performances. Once you watch the movie, you’ll understand what I’m saying because it takes a lot of coordination to do what she does. Norton embraces the tech billionaire archetype quite well, with bad hairlines and simple clothing that reminds the audience who exactly Johnson is providing commentary on. It’s becoming quite standard to dress people up like Zuck or Tim Cook / Steve Jobs, JW: Dominion did it too. Bautista nailed the men’s rights influencer look, with a gun-equipped speedo, and Kate Hudson was the perfect model without an ounce of common sense hocking her poorly made clothing line to susceptible followers. But everybody else was completely forgettable.
Returning cinematographer and frequent collaborator with Johnson, Steve Yedlin creates some pretty shots of this deserted island, with Norton’s Glass Onion abode center stage. Surrounded by tacky excess wealth and beachfront property, the onion was a marvel of CGI. Sometimes it looked great, but a lot of the time it looked like a video game asset. Certain shots stuck out as visually distinct in the wrong way. They just looked off, because again the original was done with an emphasis on real sets, locations, and weight. The costumes and designs of the characters’ homes prior to their arrival on the Glass Onion looked great, but the Onion itself was flawed from the get-go. Maybe it’s intentional too, but the fact that I can’t tell is a reasonably large flaw. Anybody who comes out of the woodwork saying that it’s supposed to symbolize the fake nature of the elite is just grasping at straws to find a reason for bad Netflix CGI. But when the camera is just pointed at the characters in more simplistic, but still extravagant environments, the visuals excel and draw me in. I wish there was more of that, less of the actual Onion.
The return of Beniot Blanc is mostly enjoyable. A decent sequel to a movie with such a high bar that it felt impossible to follow up without slipping up. Rian Johnson’s visual storytelling and flair for mystery take the audience through another layered story. Once you think you’ve figured it out, Johnson is there to highly some detail that you missed and makes you question what you thought you knew. Lead by the southern twang version of Daniel Craig yet again, this story is full of twists and turns but occasionally stumbles where the original shines so brightly. Johnson has one more movie left with Netflix on his Knives Out deal, and he has earned my vote of confidence to tell an engaging whodunit story. I just don’t think I’ll be anticipating the third story nearly as much. Maybe Netflix should do a wide release in theaters instead of teasing those of us who aren’t driving 3 hours to the nearest metropolitan city.