A few months after John Wick 4 by Chad Stahelski (the review of John Wick 4 is just a click away), the world of formidable assassins and lavish hotel chains created by Derek Kolstad and brought to the big screen by social idol Keanu Reeves, moves to the small screen for the first time thanks to The Continental, the new prequel mini-series from Prime Video which, in three episodes of about 90 minutes each, explores the origins of the iconic hotel meeting place for the most dangerous criminals in this cartoonish, over-the-top fictional universe..
The series, set in the 1970s in a putrid, garbage-filled New York City, is told through the eyes of a young Winston Scott (Colin Woodell, who inherits the role from Ian McShane), dragged into the hell of the Big Apple to confront a past he thought he had left behind. Winston, sandwiched between the elegant young concierge Charon – newcomer Ayomide Adegun, who plays the part that was once played by Lance Reddick, who passed away shortly before the release of John Wick 4 – and the fearsome owner of the Continental, Cormac (an original character created for the series and played by a wonderful and very violent Mel Gibson), he will have to find his way in the underworld of the hotel, in the desperate attempt to take the control of the hotel and get personal revenge.
Surrounding this trio of main characters, in the episodes directed by Albert Hughes and Charlotte Brandstrom, are also a plethora of more or less colorful individuals ideal for ‘the world of John Wick’ (as the subtitle of the TV series states): from corrupt cops to lost brothers, from Vietnam veterans to martial arts masters. In short, you name it.
The Continental: more plot, same beating
Prime Video is now a guarantee in terms of production and seems to be at its best when it comes to making high-budget action TV shows and cast in a spectacular facility of stunts and sets (speaking of high-budget TV shows featured on Prime Video, here’s a review of Citadel by Russo brothers).). From this point of view, The Continental holds true to the way director Chad Stahelski built the world of John Wick: richly detailed sets, strong and bright colors, outrageously elegant clothes, and jokes with a humor that is both great and subtle.
Of course, the wit of the first two John Wicks is long gone, especially that which John Wick 2 (the high point of the franchise, the one with the most accomplished discourse on the meaning of action today and its imagery) had brought to the saga before the overflowing – and consequently repetitive – John Wick 3 and John Wick 4. Therefore, The Continental must necessarily rely on dialogue and narrative plots to carry out its episodes: it does so by pulling in everything from Shakespearian betrayals to blaxploitation atmospheres for a three-act story that is alive and full of the typical showmanship of the saga but at the same time heir to the redundancies of a franchise to which, perhaps, there is little left to add.
It remains an interesting gimmick to expand the world of John Wick and move it to TV (a dutiful move in the post-Marvel Studios and post-streaming entertainment world) while waiting to return to the movies with the spin-off Ballerina with Ana de Armas (which will also mark the return of Keanu Reeves: the story will be set after the events of John Wick 3 and before the events of John Wick 4) and the inevitable John Wick 5 already announced by Lionsgate.. However, in the year of Mission: Impossible 7 (here is our review of Mission: Impossible 7), around here we continue to prefer Tom Cruise-style action: the only night fight between Ethan Hunt and the beautiful Pom Klementieff in the bottleneck of that dark alley in Venice (which, to be fair, The Continental tries to replicate inside a phone booth) is worth both the three episodes of The Continental and the three hours of John Wick 4.