In this sequel to the highly successful 2019 Knives Out movie, former James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, reprises his role as the quirky Cajun detective, Benoit Blanc. Can writer/director Rian Johnson pull a hat trick and give us another winner?
It was just supposed to be a fun getaway, that’s all. Billionaire tech guru Miles Bron (Edward Norton) sends out five curious puzzle boxes to his friends, inviting them all to his lavish Greek island for a murder-mystery weekend. They are: up for re-election Governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom, jr) who works for Miles, dingbat supermodel and fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her damage control assistant, Peg (Jessica Henwick), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) a Twitch superstar along with his hot girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and whistle-blower Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle Monáe).
Also there at the island is super detective, Benoit Blanc (Craig) which is curious as he wasn’t invited, according to Miles. No matter, we soon learn that Miles (a sorta Steve Jobs/Elon Musk hybrid) not only has wealth and possessions beyond compare, but he also has come up with Klear, a new energy source made from seawater that will make billions. However, it’s soon apparent that each one of his guests there has a really good reason to kill Miles. It looks like Miles has a secret stranglehold on every one of his friends and without his money, clout, or say-so, they’d all be in dire straights.
That’s when one of the partygoers suddenly drops dead! Oh no! Leaping into action is Benoit, trying to deduce who murdered the person and why. At this point the movie suddenly takes a pause, backs up, and starts over again from almost the beginning, filling in all the blanks that we didn’t see before in the first act! Brilliant and innovative! We get to see practically the same film again, but with the twists and turns slowly being straightened out. The third is the classic murderer/liar revealed and wow! It was not the same ‘ol’ same’ ol ending I was expecting.
For a sequel, Rian Johnson has written/directed an even better who-done-it than his previous 2019 film, which was a glorious murder mystery worthy of any Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle. This one has more humor, more ingenious spins, and so many celebrity cameos I stopped counting. Honestly, I didn’t think you could pull off a better sequel than the first one, but by golly, he did it! It’s exciting, fast-paced, very funny, and Edward Norton really gets to shine as the smarmy, egotistical host of his party. He’s perfect in this role. Then you have Bautista and Cline as Twitch stars who are just so funny, but the real jokes come from Hudson and Henwick who need a spin-off movie of their own!
Hahn is always a treat to watch, as is Odom, jr. with his powerful delivery. The real star here is Janelle Monáe who has a special role in the movie I can’t give away, but suffice it to say she steals the film. And let’s not forget the former 007 star, Daniel Craig, who is having so much fun playing the Kentucky Fried detective, that he could make this his new franchise role. He is such a joy to watch act goofy and silly. And yes, they do play the Beatle’s song Glass Onion during the credits. Put this movie on your Christmas wish list, my friends!
**Now showing in theaters, streams on Netflix on December 23rd*
The Last of Sheila (1973)
Rian Johnson (Knives Out) cites this movie as the inspiration for his murder-mystery sequel. After all, it deals with a Mediterranean cruise, a bunch of friends getting together, and murder! What’s unusual is that this brilliant who-done-it was written by actor Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame) and the late, legendary Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim, based on their party games!
Her name was Sheila Greene (Yvonne Romaine), wife of wealthy movie producer, Clinton Greene (James Coburn). After her brutal and unsolved murder, Clinton hosts a weekend of games, puzzles, and murder mysteries aboard his yacht, the Sheila, in the South of France. He invites actress Alice Wood (Rachel Welch) and her husband, Anthony (Ian McShane), TV director Phillip Dexter (James Mason), screenwriter Tom Parkman (Richard Benjamin) and his wife, Lee (Joan Hackett), plus fun-loving talent agent, Christine (Dyan Cannon). While on the ship, they’re all handed cards that list their “secret identity” like ex-convict, alcoholic, homosexual, informer, and hit-and-run-killer. The game? Guess the other’s hidden secret.
The question is: does Clinton know who his wife’s real killer is and is playing a dangerous game with them, or is he playing detective and trying to find out through his various games? In any case, Sheila’s killer realizes they may have been outed and starts to play their own game. Even though Christine is almost made into fish food one day, the games continue with Clinton having a ball with his elaborate set-ups. Unfortunately, someone murders Clinton and everyone is a suspect. Tom, playing Hercule Poirot (but with a less fancy mustache), has everyone reveal their secret cards in an attempt to find out who killed whom. Lee, drunk and distraught, confesses to killing both Sheila & Clinton and commits suicide later that evening. However, Dexter sees some inconsistencies in how the crime was solved; the revealing cards vs the photo that Clinton took. The finale with Tom and the hand puppets is a genuine shocker.
The one and only screenplay by Perkins & Sondheim was absolute gold. Tight, darkly funny, smart, and makes you think. And with a great director like Herbert Ross (Sunshine Boys, Goodbye Girl), you couldn’t go wrong. Played out like an Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes mystery, it hit all the beats and kept your attention the entire time. James Coburn as the sadistic gamemaster is charming & charismatic, making each scene his own. Richard Benjamin and James Mason play off each other like a diabolical game of chess; they’re both brilliant. Dyan Cannon is a ball of energy and fun, while Rachel Welch is just plain dull. All reports say she caused nothing but trouble on the set, being a royal diva and pissing everyone off. A simple, meat-and-potatoes who-done-it with damn fine acting, writing, and acting without all the fanciness of the Branagh films. Rent/stream this!!