The Continental is an absolute blast. The series has all the cut and thrust of the John Wick-Verse and plays in the 70s sandbox to deliver a deliciously compelling origin story for some of the pillars of the franchise.
We have a reservation at THE CONTINENTAL. The legendary hotel at the heart of the JOHN WICK saga is opening its doors again. But this time, we’re stepping back in time to experience how it came to be managed by the debonaire Winston Scott. But with Mel Gibson’s Cormac O’Connor standing in his way, his ascension to the top of the tree isn’t going to be an easy one. And with an army of assassins taking residency within its walls, wrestling control away from Cormac is going to be damn near impossible. And one should never bet against the house.
But can this limited series stick the landing and deliver a television event worthy of the franchise? Or should the famed hotel close its doors on the small screen and conduct its business on the big screen only?
Fear not John Wick fans because The Continental is an absolute blast. The three-part series has all the cut and thrust of the Wick-Verse and plays in the 70s sandbox to deliver a deliciously compelling origin story for some of the pillars of the franchise. And although the series is far from perfect, it does more than enough to ensure that the doors remain open for more high-table adventures!
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Now, rest easy dear readers because I will not be delving into spoiler territory here. This series needs to be enjoyed without any preconceptions. Nevertheless, the show centers on the rise of Winston Scott and his reliable Concierge Charon. After his estranged brother Frankie (Ben Robson) steals the template for the High Table’s notorious gold coins, Winston is dragged before the Continental hotel’s current manager Cormac O’Connor (Mel Gibson), and is tasked with recovering the priceless contraption. With Cormac’s goons on hand to offer a constant hazard, Winston sets off to find his brother and wipe the slate clean. But as always, Winston is always one step ahead.
After a fast and furious opening salvo that serves to remind us which sandbox we are playing in, we are introduced to the characters that will carry the series forward. From the off, Winston Scott (Colin Woodell) is on hand to guide us through the choppy 70s gangster aesthetics and provide a safe set of hands on the wheel. The retro atmosphere is as compelling as it is stunning, and as the opening episode progresses, the scenery becomes all the more immersive. It’s dark and gritty one minute, and lavish and glitzy the next. The result is an atmospheric opening episode that leaves you wanting more. And more we will receive.
With its thrifty trio of feature-length episodes keeping the plot tight, The Continental quickly descends into a glorified heist caper. One that requires an elite team to best Cormac’s stranglehold on the hotel and the assassins residing therein. And Winston has an eye for talent. A chain of events brings a small band of crooks and cops to the fore led by dojo-owning siblings Miles (Hubert Point-Du Jour) and Lou (Jessica Allain). Joining them is Frankie’s somewhat aggressive wife Yen (Nhung Kate), and Ray McKinnon’s plant-loving hitman Jenkins. Mishel Prada’s gun-toting cop on the other hand has other ideas in mind. And soon, her ill-advised investigation into Winston, Cormac, and The Continental sets the wheels in motion for the mother of all gun fights.
A TANTALIZING PRELUDE?
Now, we all know how the story ends, and who the power-players truly are. But this series serves as a pretty serviceable backstory that fills in some, not all of the blanks. Some of the bigger burning questions remain frustratingly shrouded in mystery. The origins of the High Table remain tantalizingly out of reach, as does the origins of the hotel itself. Instead, this three-part extravaganza serves to introduce us to Winston Scott, Charon, and the circumstances surrounding their rise to prominence. The omission of these facts will undoubtedly leave some viewers frustrated. But those of us who are here for action, violence, and well-placed anecdotes are in for a treat.
This delightful slice of 1970s gangster paradise is only as good as the players tasked with bringing it to the screen. And I am delighted to report that everyone is up to the challenge here. Eyebrows were raised when Mel Gibson was cast as the villain and those of us who forgot about his scene-stealing qualities will soon be reminded why he was so regarded back in the day. Gibson returns to his PAYBACK heydey to conjure a New York mobster as shrewd as he is violent. And the result is a scenery-chewing performance that commands attention. Suarve and polite one minute, commanding murder the next, this villain is a character to remember. And he adds a wonderful obstacle to overcome. Even though his accent slips from time to time, it takes nothing away from what is a solid and memorable performance.
Now, slipping into Ian McShane’s shoes is a daunting task. After all, the actor’s performance in the John Wick saga to date has been exceptional. But Colin Woodell nails it with a landmark stint as Winston. All of McShane’s trademark mannerisms are on display here, and Woodell does well to capture the subtle nuances associated with the character. After all, there’s more to the character than the trademark cravat. But Woodell makes it look easy here. One slight detraction, however, is the hint of an American accent that does emerge throughout. But this is a minor grievance in what otherwise is a stellar performance.
The same can be true for Charon. Ayomide Adegun slips into the late great Lance Reddick’s shoes and captures the essence of the character. Albeit a more innocent version. But he effortlessly taps into the soul of the character and showcases a side of him we aren’t that familiar with. But by the time the credits roll, we are on familiar terrain and the hierarchy we are so accustomed to is set in stone.
Notable mentions go out to Mishel Prada, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Jessica Allain, Nhung Kate, and Jeremy Bobb who all bring something to the table. But with their characters having no future in the franchise beyond this series there isn’t too much to be invested in here. All perform admirably and all enjoy some well-rounded and legitimate backstories, but their relevance isn’t as pivotal as I had hoped. However, the addition of the TWINS is a masterstroke. The series has always boasted some of the most outlandish and colorful assassins ever committed to screen. And The Continental upholds that tradition.
The murderous twins named Hansel and Gretel are an absolute joy. Both of Asian descent and rocking leather outfits and matching fringes, these assassins are as lethal as they are eccentric. And their involvement raises the stakes when the weapons come into play. They offer a genuine threat, especially went they are dispatching people left and right. And some of the kills will have us wincing as the bloodletting commences. As always, there are a multitude of weapons deployed here. From golf clubs to knives, and cinema seats to C4, nothing is off the table. But this is what brought us to the dance and long may it continue.
SETTING THE STAGE
Directors Albert Hughes and Charlotte Brändström may not quite have Chad Stahelski’s visual flair or eye for neon set pieces, but what they lack in this field they make up for with grit. The retro 70s aesthetics are a joy to behold and the accompanying soundtrack hits all the right notes. The inclusion of some of the era’s funkiest tunes helps to sell the atmosphere and evokes the ambiance of 70s New York, even down to the litter-filled streets. It’s quite a tonal shift from the movies. But this series delivers a different flavor to its predecessors that keeps things fresh, all the while staying true to the formula that made the franchise so great. And that is the hallmark of a great team of creatives working at the top of their game.
Overall, I had an absolute blast at The Continental. The opening episode is a genuine shot of adrenaline that sets the tone for everything that follows. Although the second episode slows down the pace, the third episode, which is an unapologetic 1-hour and 37-minute gun battle, secures an explosive victory for the small screen. This delightful slice of 70s gangster paradise is the perfect environment for a fresh adventure. And it’s this ambiance coupled with its alluring score and banging soundtrack that serves up a winning formula and an enticing origin story.
In all honesty, an origin story for Winston Scott wasn’t high on my wishlist from this franchise. After all, what is the John Wick saga without John Wick? But this series demonstrates that the franchise has more facets beneath its umbrella than just Keanu Reeves’ gun-toting Baba-Yaga. And they are more than enough to ensure that the doors to the famous hotel remain open. Next up for the saga is a return to the modern era in Ballerina.
Until then, make your reservation, polish your gold coins, dust off your weaponry, and warm up the popcorn because The Continental is open for business and the manager is expecting you. Cravats and all!
The Continental: From The World Of John Wick opens its doors on Friday, September 22nd on Prime Video. Subscribe to our newsletter at the top of our homepage to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and reviews from Future of the Force.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!