The Continental: From the World of John Wick Review

Exploring the Origins of The Continental: A Review

In the debut episode of The Continental, a character exclaims, “guns… lots of guns,” a phrase that Keanu Reeves made famous in John Wick: Chapter 3 and The Matrix. This is just one of many references to Reeves’ filmography that can be found throughout the John Wick franchise. The fact that The Continental appropriates this line for another character, as if it’s a trademark Wickism unique to the spinoff series, speaks volumes about the show’s confidence in itself.

The Continental may live in the shadow of the iconic Baba Yaga, but it didn’t have to be this way. Since the success of the first film, the world of the High Table has developed into a complex cinematic universe with a mythology intriguing enough to stand on its own, with or without Reeves. However, it may be challenging to convince viewers of this after watching the three-night event series, which revolves around Winston Scott, played by Ian McShane on the big screen and Colin Woodell in The Continental, as he establishes himself as the owner of New York City’s top assassin hotel. While the show has the appearance of the John Wick movies, and occasionally offers intriguing historical context for Winston’s role in Wick’s journey, it requires some effort to uncover these hidden gems amongst the abundance of mediocre content.

The Continental Gallery

Spanning three feature-length episodes, The Continental takes viewers back in time to explore the relationship between Winston and his estranged brother Frankie, as well as their encounters with Cormac O’Connor, the manager of The Continental in the 1970s, who is played by Mel Gibson. Cormac’s abrasive nature, terrible puns, and explosive anger make him the antithesis of present-day Winston and symbolize the institutional change he will bring to the world of assassins, gun-runners, and criminals. Cormac’s “anti-Winston” persona is just one of many parallels to John Wick characters and themes that The Continental utilizes to streamline worldbuilding on its own terms. If you loved Ruby Rose’s character in Chapter 2, get ready for two mute assassins with quirky hairstyles. If Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King was your favorite, now there’s a Bowery Queen! And if the stoic Adjudicator from Chapter 3 caught your attention, brace yourself for a new character with a porcelain mask and a kilt-wearing bodyguard. With this somewhat lazy approach, the show starts to feel like John Wick for those who don’t have their glasses on.

The Continental significantly underestimates the scope required to tell its David and Goliath story. Unlike the John Wick films, which primarily focus on John’s perspective and occasionally provide glimpses into the worlds of Winston and the antagonists, The Continental introduces at least five main characters who share the narrative spotlight. The intention behind this is to deepen the bench of those with grievances against the volatile Cormac and provide Winston with a capable team to take him down. However, many of these subplots feel inconsequential and lack emotional depth. The struggles faced by siblings Miles and Lou Burton, as they confront gangsters in Chinatown, seem detached from the realm of the High Table. Their inclusion appears to be primarily for the purpose of showcasing disco-soundtracked karate fights. The police investigation into Frankie’s activities, led by Detective KD Silva, often slows down the plot unnecessarily. Silva’s relentless pursuit, and the rules she breaks to achieve her goals, seem insignificant when considering the influence of the High Table. The resolution of her storyline falls flat. The lack of coherence in how these subplots contribute to the overarching narrative, with cause and effect becoming less important, is particularly evident in the shaky third episode.

Woodell’s portrayal of Winston is a standout performance, echoing McShane’s polished charisma while still maintaining its own identity. Woodell shines in scenes where Winston must convince allies to join his cause or employ subterfuge to conceal his true motives. Ayomide Adegun’s Charon successfully channels Lance Reddick’s iconic concierge character while adding a touch of innocence that makes him easily likable as he navigates his own future. The Continental does establish the groundwork for the development of these relationships, but they receive less emphasis than expected, and other characters who occupy that screen time are far less compelling.

Frankie, played by Ben Robson, works for Cormac and is unmistakably a stand-in for John Wick, with his long hair, tattoos, tactical reloads, and prowess in hand-to-hand combat. Robson delivers a commendable performance in his action sequences, which are the highlights of The Continental. However, due to the show’s focus on Winston, Frankie quickly becomes a secondary character. His wife Yen, portrayed by Nhung Kate, a former fighter for the Khmer Rouge in the Vietnam War, faces a similar fate. Although her perspective on the conflict provides some weighty thematic discussions, it fails to integrate meaningfully into the character arcs. Aside from a powerful monologue from Point-Du Jour, which stands out as the strongest dramatic moment across all three episodes, the impact of the war on the supporting cast is hinted at but not fully explored.

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While the overall production design is impressive, successfully capturing the essence of the world established in the first John Wick film, the action sequences may disappoint those expecting the same level of quality. Although there are glimpses of the inventive violence perfected by Chad Stahelski and Reeves, the hand-to-hand combat in The Continental is largely unremarkable. A poorly executed car chase, with unnecessary cuts to black, detracts from the visual language established by both the films and the rest of the show. It seems like an attempt to salvage a scene that didn’t work on set but was necessary for the progression of the characters. Ultimately, The Continental’s greatest achievement may lie in the potential it holds for future installments. While there may not be enough compelling threads within the show to warrant a direct follow-up, the integration into the world of John Wick invites further exploration of The Continental’s history, as well as that of its international counterparts.