Miles Bron is hosting a murder. His murder.
Oh, it’s not an extravagant murder—just part of a mellow, low-key weekend get-together on Miles’ private island. Sure, the murder party’s script was written by mystery author Gillian Flynn (whose services, Miles points out, don’t come cheap). It may or may not involve a gemstone the size of an average thumb. But it’s not as though Miles resurrected Agatha Christie for the party. Miles might be rich, but he can’t raise the dead. Yet.
True, the weekend’s not all about fun and gore. Miles has something very important he’d like to discuss with his guests. But that can wait: murder first, business after. Miles would just love to spend some time with his very bestest friends in the whole wide world—and let one of them pretend to kill him.
But what if his friends don’t feel like pretending?
Yes, most of Miles’ guests have been buddy-buddy with him for decades. Miles, in fact, helped them all get rich. Lionel works for Miles’ tech firm as his brilliant lieutenant. Claire became Connecticut’s governor thanks to Miles’ support. Birdie flew right into a career as a supermodel. Duke became a YouTube influencer. They all owe Miles a great deal.
Perhaps that’s part of the problem. Their bonds of friendship can feel like shackles. And maybe one of them is ready to pry free.
And then there’s Andi Brand, Miles’ old business partner, who has the biggest reason of them all to sharpen her knife. She and Miles built their Alpha tech conglomerate from silicon and elbow grease, turning it into a worldwide behemoth. But then they had a falling out, and after a messy (and very public) lawsuit, Miles cut her right out of the business. It amounted to career assassination. Death on the Trial, you might say.
Strange that Miles invited Andi to this little shindig of his, given that he burned her life to the ground. Perhaps he hoped to patch things up. More likely, he just wanted to rub it in.
But everyone was flabbergasted that Andi actually showed up.
Believe it or not, Andi wasn’t the most unexpected guest. No, that accolade must go to the one-and-only Benoit Blanc, the famed detective known for his slow drawl and quick brain, whose cream-colored suits match perfectly with his little gray cells.
Yes, he’s part of the party, too—a first-time guest in what had always been the most exclusive of get-togethers. Why was he invited? Most everyone on the island would like to know.
Perhaps even Miles himself.
Knives Out, Glass Onion has more on its mind than just knitting together a fun little murder mystery, just like its predecessor. This story uses Miles as its primary foil—an illustration of greed and excess in the Internet age. Most of his ambitious guests are dependent on Miles’ support to succeed, but that support comes with strings. Each of them has been compromised and corrupted in their own ways, and most increasingly understand that. This weekend get together becomes an opportunity to search one’s soul as well as sniff out a killer.
Benoit Blanc stands as an incorruptible counterpoint to Miles and most of his guests. He seeks truth and justice and, of course, resolution to the mystery unfolding before him. But he also knows his limits: “I am not Batman,” he tells someone. He can perhaps solve the crime, but hauling in the guilty? Exacting punishment for the crime? Why, that’s in the hands of the police and judges and juries.
Miles appears to be an aficionado of some rather untethered Eastern and New Age beliefs. He gives his guests bio-rhythm-monitor wristbands that correspond with what he considers to be their chakra colors, and his house is filled with statues and artwork that seem to have a Hindu-Buddhist leaning. One grand mosaic in Miles’ dining area seems to feature Kanye West as a Buddha-like spiritual leader.
Another odd spiritual note: While Miles’ conglomerate is called Alpha, its symbol appears to be much closer to the Greek letter omega. There’s a reference to putting someone on a cross.
Duke is a “man’s rights activist” on YouTube. We see him record a segment where he discusses his affinity for breasts. (His girlfriend, Whiskey, appears on screen in a sports bra as proof.) He also may get the Glass Onion award for wearing the least amount of clothes in a scene: He cavorts in a small, suggestive speedo, and his ever-present handgun is wedged in its band, pointing down to his crotch. (He wears the holster in similar fashion when he’s wearing pants, the weaponry situated around the fly area instead of at the hip.)
Whiskey spends much of the movie in a very revealing bikini. She straddles and makes out with someone while wearing said bikini as others watch through a window. Though she’s Duke’s girlfriend, she flirts and cuddles with another man on the island, making a number of people uncomfortable. It’s clear that many people believe she’s cheating on Duke with this guy.
Birdie also wears a very revealing bikini. Both she and Whiskey bare quite a bit of skin throughout. And most of the women wear clothes that display cleavage or hug curves. Sometimes the effect is old-school sultry, sometimes new-school tawdry.
Benoit Blanc sits in a bathtub, engaging in a video chat with several folks. A party features a great number of hedonistic revelers, including some that seem to be a bit gender fluid. When Birdie meets Mr. Blanc for the first time, she says suggestively, “Hello, stranger danger.” We learn that Duke’s been marketing Viagra-like pills on his YouTube channel to teens. (The pills, we’re told, are made from rhino horns.)
This being a murder mystery, let’s assume at least one person dies during Glass Onion. But to avoid spoilers, we’ll be as non-specific as possible in this section.
Someone is poisoned. Someone else is shot. A car crash is narrowly avoided. A spear gun is nearly used. A crossbow bolt is shot into someone’s chest. We hear that someone was murdered before the murder party (though it was made to look like a suicide).
Explosions explode. Fires flame. Glass is broken. A car crashes. More glass is broken. A box is smashed. Guns are fired in the air. We see several speculative scenes of someone getting poisoned.
Two f-words and more than two-dozen s-words. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “d–n,” “t-tty” and “h—.” God’s name is misused nearly 30 times (four with the word “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is misused at least once. (We also hear a “jeez.”)
We learn that Miles and his friends used to hang out at a bar called The Glass Onion. We see them there in a flashback, drinking and carousing. During the weekend get-together, Miles proudly serves his guests their signature drinks. (One guest only pretends to drink, needing to have a sharp mind for the activities ahead.)
A character gets a bit soused on alcoholic kombucha. Characters drink wine and beer and other beverages. An earlier party is filled with drinking, smoking revelers. A guest room contains what appear to be either self-rolled cigarettes or marijuana blunts.
Benoit Blanc smokes cigars, and we see him puff on several. (Miles’ security system scolds him when he lights up outside: He’s told that it’s a strictly no-smoking garden.)
One of the guests worries that she’ll get sick on the boat ride to Miles’ island. Birdie is well known for her bad-taste comments and ill-advised missives and misunderstandings on social media. We hear several allusions to racist posts she has shared (all of which were simply taken the wrong way). And she had no problem in manufacturing her line of leisurewear at a notorious sweatshop—believing that sweatshops were naturally where sweatsuits were made.
There’s nothing like a little murder to brighten up an evening.
It’s a strange thing to say—perhaps especially here at Plugged In. We don’t, as a rule, cotton to murder. But despite the blood and death baked into many a whodunit, many murder mysteries have a certain gentility. Grandmothers who faint at the sight of a paper cut might eagerly devour a corpse-filled mystery movie. Families sometimes gather together to figure out the puzzle.
For more than a century, the whodunit’s knife has been stuck in the back of popular culture. These mysteries have padded the bank accounts of everyone from Ngaio Marsh to P.D. James and made Agatha Christie the bestselling writer of all time. Long after drawing rooms themselves vanished from American homes, drawing-room-style murder mysteries endured.
And now, in an age when the answers to most questions are just a Google search away, these plot-heavy puzzlers are seeing a resurgence. Why, you might even say they’re making a killing.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the latest clue in this 21st-century revival. Though Glass Onion is owned by Netflix, the streaming giant opted to open the movie in 600 theaters for a weeklong run—not just to qualify for any and all possible Oscars, but because Netflix expects the demand to be quite high. Why not make a little extra cash at the box office?
On some level, the film justifies the interest. Sporting another all-star cast, Glass Onion is funny and clever, reveling in every twist and turn. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s more jet-setting mysteries, this feels like a classic whodunit with a 21st-century sensibility. And for a murder mystery—especially when compared to the surprisingly gory remake of Death on the Nile—it’s not particularly bloody.
But alas, murder is the least of the movie’s problems.
The skin and sensuality far outstrip (pardon the pun) its forebear, Knives Out, and the sexual references come at a far quicker clip than blades or bullets. Language can be quite rough for a PG-13 movie. Drinking and smoking all make their appearance, too.
Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s witty. But for those who enjoy good whodunits but worry about problematic content landing in their family rooms, peeling this Glass Onion just might make you cry.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.