A hundred years ago the gentleman detective in the form of Philo Vance was extremely popular. The crimes he solved tended to be artificial and complex. The hard-boiled detective in the form of Sam Spade and the Continental Op were a reaction to this artificiality. Raymond Chandler wrote The Simple Art of Murder in reaction). Men who walked down the mean streets became the standard, and Philo was left behind.
Benoit Blanc of the Knives Out franchise is cut from the bolt of fine cloth as Vance, in the Glass Onion he is launched into Agatha Christies’ Ten Little Indians. Ten people, eight of them criminals, isolated on a remote island.
The real inspiration for Glass Onion is found in the Herbert Ross directed The Last of Shiela, written by Stephen Soundheim and Anthony Perkins. Too bad Onion does not have a cast like Sheila: Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn, Joan Hackett, James Mason, Ian McShane & Raquel Welch. They bring something to the story the less well-known players lack. As a result, Rian directs his players to a frenzy of over acting.
Rather than allowing Kate Hudson to realize viewers’ expectations, he has her fly up to an annoying zeal very much like a new-age Icarus on crack.
We barely have to familiarize ourselves with the characters before they are shipped off to the tech billionaire fantasy island. (”What’s that, Tattoo, the art direction looks like early Akron?”) We are tasked with learning backstory largely in flashbacks.
Then there is ‘Chekhov’s rifle on the wall’ in the form of freeze-dried hydrogen (“It could blow-up the world!”), introduced upon arrival on the island. We know to expect a big-bang conclusion. Destruction for its own sake.
Johnson then violates Chekhov’s narrative rule with the inclusion of someone called Derol, who had no function, other than that of a red herring.
Benoit Blanc is advertised as a Southerner (his face gives you the impression he is an ex-prize fighter, retired undefeated). Nothing about his performance says Down Home, and he certainly has nothing in common with James G. Burke’s Dave Robicheaux of New Iberia Parish, Louisiana. Benoit here is just a guy with an unconvincing accent. Had he a New Orleans Irish Channel accent he would have brought something interesting to the character.
Johnson typically ends the story with a banal blow ’em up ending, preceded by an Ellery Queen/Lt. Colombo denouement.
I am sure the viewer can expect the same banal summing-up from every installment in this tiresome franchise.
“‘There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.“
Just a reminder of what real writing looks like.