Rian Johnson, who’s evidently incapable of directing a movie that isn’t fun (including the last great Bruce Willis movie, 2012’s Looper), brings you the season’s most fun film, playing for a sneak-peek week in theaters Nov. 23-29 (before its Dec. 23 Netflix debut). It’s a sequel to his word-of-mouth smash hit Knives Out (2019), but except for Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), the sly, laid-back sleuth with the Southern Comfort-smooth drawl and a mind like Agatha Christie’s mousetrap, it’s an all-fresh cast, everybody having the time of their lives.
The first film, shot for $40 million, was confined to a mansion. Johnson got a reported $469 million for two Knives Out sequels, and this first one is set on the appropriately ridiculously luxurious private Greek island of tech zillionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton, superbly spoofing what some might consider the malevolent egomaniacal bonhomie of Elon Musk). Miles invites a gaggle of his entertainingly eccentric friends, who called themselves “the Disrupters” — a term of honor to tech types — to a murder mystery party in his sun-drenched resort topped by a glass-walled palace named after a bar they used to frequent, called the Glass Onion. As any techie knows, disrupters tend to move fast and break things, and so does this fizzy romp of a film.
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Miles’ guest Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson in her best role since Almost Famous) is a witless ex-supermodel and online fashion entrepreneur whose frantic assistant (amusing Jessica Henwick) races to undo the chronic damage of clueless Birdie’s appalling, career-cancelingly offensive tweets.
Dave Bautista’s muscleheaded, tattooed buffoon Duke Cody is another wannabe internet star, whining about downtrodden men’s rights on a YouTube show headquartered in his mom’s basement. His ditzy wisp of a girlfriend Whiskey (Madeline Cline) wants to use him, or anybody, to grow her own nonexistent fame. (She doesn’t deserve it, but hey, neither does Miles.) Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. plays Miles’ apparently earnest inventor colleague, and Kathryn Hahn a stressed-out politician. Their two roles are underwritten, not up to the actors’ talents, but even so, they're efficient cogs in the story’s whirring machine.
More intriguing and well-rounded is Andi Brand (Hidden Figures’ brilliant Janelle Monáe, funnier than you’ve ever seen her), who helped start Miles’ business, then got frozen out. If anybody has a motive for homicide, it’s she — but don’t jump to any conclusions on Miles’ isle.