There are many reasons why John Wick is one of the most hyped and beloved franchises of the action genre, and a huge part of it has to do with the stylised action and cinematography, which are intense, and top-notch. Throw in a vibrant, colourful, electric world where every punch to the face or gunshot is beautifully choreographed and synced with the background music, and you have a winning formula.
Add on a revenge-fuelled Keanu Reeves in a black suit and long shaggy hair, mindless violence and an understated, but very much present, humour, and Hollywood pretty much has a new franchise to milk. First released in 2014, John Wick added three sequels, including the recent John Wick: Chapter 4. While actor Reeves is ready to put his legacy as the assassin behind, the Wickverse is only rapidly expanding, starting with the new streaming series, The Continental: From The World of John Wick.
Rather than a movie, The Continental is a three-chapter prequel series to the John Wick movies and explores the origin of the iconic hotel-for-assassins. A centerpiece of the Wickverse where assassins can set the hunt aside for time to relax, John Wick fans would know that the man often associated with the building in New York is one Winston Scott, the owner of the New York Continental Hotel and a man of power who occupies one of the underworld’s highest-trust roles.
In the John Wick movies, Winston – played by Ian McShane – makes sure that every guest enjoys a pampered and well-appointed stay, regardless of how horrible they might be outside hotel doors. Winston deeply believes in the rules and the consequences of the assassin underworld, and takes his role as management seriously. In many ways, Winston is a proxy for the audience too, serving as eyes in which viewers can witness John and his actions from a safe, albeit sympathetic, distance.
In The Continental, however, viewers become Winston. Specifically, a young Winston (Colin Woodell) who before coming to power as the owner of the New York Continental, seeks revenge against its previous owner, Cormac (Mel Gibson), and how he eventually took the hotel for himself. Now, we already know his destination, so The Continental is just his journey to it, and one we argue is worth embarking on whether one is a John Wick fan, or new to the franchise.
The Continental has all the elements that the John Wick movies have: violence, underworld organisations, superb action choreography, beautiful cinematography, a sick music scor, and comedy. Where it didn’t have Reeves as the world’s best hitman, we get Woodell, who is utterly charming, in a suit, scheming and sarcastic as Winston. If you never had a crush on Winston in the movies, you sure as hell do now.
In addition to the origin of the hotel and Winston as a rising underdog, The Continental sees how Charon (Ayomide Adegun), Winston’s trusted right-hand came to be too. It’s a relationship that was showcased plenty in the John Wick movies, so to be able to witness the blossoming is a special experience, even if we know of Charon’s final fate.
New characters Detective KD (Mishel Prada), siblings Miles (Hubert Point-Du Jour) and Lou (Jessica Allain) and Winston’s Vietnamese sister-in-law Yen (Nhung Kate) are a wonderful addition to the Wickverse. Miles, Lou and Yen form a formidable team with Winston in his pursuit of Cormac, each of whom receives ample screen time and backstory before their lives intertwine with Winston’s. Miles and Lou are siblings of African descent who live, grew up in, and run a Karate Dojo in Chinatown. In The Continental, the siblings are at risk of being chased out when a new gang takes over the town. Detective KD, who is obsessed with finding Winston, gets a big reveal in the last episode. All these characters add an extra layer to the story and the plot – something that the John Wick movies often lacked because it was too busy being mindlessly violent and ridiculously pretty.
Out of all the new characters introduced, Gibson’s Cormac is the most dangerous and of greatest interest. Obsessed with loyalty and remaining in power, Cormac sets out to get Winston killed too. Initially motivated to find a prized item that Winston’s brother Frankie (Ben Robson) stole from him, Cormac spirals into an absolute madman as chaos unravels within his hotel.
Yen, on the other hand, could’ve received more care and attention from the writers. Whilst a complete badass, we expected more development on her hand given how she was a central character in episodes one and two.
The Continental only has three episodes, each one of them going beyond an hour, but never more than an hour and 30 minutes. They are incredibly long and frankly speaking, feel more of a feature film each time. They are, thankfully, evenly paced with plenty of action to go around. True John Wick fans will not mind binging the series – after all, we are used to long movie durations – but The Continental may require a lot more commitment from casual viewers.
As much as The Continental is an expansion on the Wickverse and John Wick movies, it is still an accessible series for new viewers. Sure, new viewers may be confused about who The High Table exactly is, and why The Continental is so important, but The Continental is easy to follow. This is simply because at the heart of the series, is a story about killers moving through New York and ultimately, an action-packed tale of revenge.
The Continental: From The World of John Wick premieres on 22 September on Peacock in the US, and on Amazon Prime Video for the rest of the world.
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