The review of The Continental, a prequel series to John Wick which tells the story of Winston Scott’s youth in New York in the 70s. Also in the cast is Mel Gibson. On Prime Video.
John Wick, why are you John Wick? What at the beginning seemed like a simple action film born from the partnership between Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves – of which the former was stunt-man on the set of The Matrix, and then moving on to directing -, in less than ten years he became one of the franchise most loved by the public (and also by critics who are not afraid of being pop). Simple story, strong mythology, with its codes (the most lethal assassins in the world, who have their own currency, all meet in a New York hotel, The Continental), spectacular fights. And then one of the actors who knows how to make himself loved the most as the protagonist. John Wick is a perfect machine, designed for success. So can the John Wick universe exist without John Wick? It’s the bet that Greg Coolidge, Kirk Ward and Shawn Simmons made when imagining one serie prequel set in the 70s and dedicated to Winston Scott, who in the film saga has the Luciferian face of Ian McShane. There review by The Continental he therefore starts with the only possible question: is gambling worth our gold coins?
On Prime Video from September 22nd, The Continental it also takes another risk: instead of dividing its almost five hours of duration into as many episodes, to be spread over several weeks, it chooses to come out with only three chapters, each of almost an hour and a half. As if they were three films. A different strategy compared to what the streaming platform has done previously. And also from the competition. Almost as if they wanted to make the gap between the film saga and the television saga less clear.
Without spilling the beans too much, The Continental therefore focuses on a specific point of the story: how Winston Scott gained control of the hotel. In the 70s there was in fact another boss behind the desk: Cormac. To interpret it is Mel Gibson, who seems to have seized the opportunity to create a character who is deliberately over the top, despicable, but also very charismatic. It is he, despite having fallen into disgrace in Hollywood due to his personal affairs, who gives the dose of “star power” to the series.
The Continental: il trailer
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The plot of The Continental: from London to New York
Playing the young version of Winston is Colin Woodell: he has the right elegance in wearing a haute couture suit and, above all, the right flash of light in his eyes. To clarify: that of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. As the character Robert Muldoon says: “That one over there… When he looks into your eyes you can tell he’s thinking about something“. Well, an actor like this was needed to perfectly embody Winston Scott. And Woodell has it. Maybe not as much as Ian McShane, but, given that the character here is at the beginning of his rise, it’s justified.
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His Winston, in the series, ideally takes the place that Keanu Reeves’ John Wick has in the films. Replacing the now proverbial dog, which unleashes the protagonist’s murderous fury, is his older brother, Frankie (Ben Robson). As kids, to survive, they worked for Cormac, but then, to offer him a better life, Frankie took on all the burden of the criminal life, letting Winston go to London. Here the boy became a skilled businessman, very rich, far from the problems of New York. However, when the brother decides to turn against the whole family Big Table (i.e. the council that regulates the criminal world of the saga, made up of 12 chairs, each owned by a family), the call of blood brings him back to the Big Apple.
The Continental: it’s just the beginning
The authors’ greatest effort here is clearly concentrated on building a story consistent with the John Wick universe. And in John Wick two things are fundamental: style and fight scenes. As for the first, there is plenty of it: great care is given to the costumes, props and sets. Everything recalls the 70s, but reinvented according to the needs of the series (the white mask of The Adjudicator it seems like something out of a comic, or the theatre kabuki). From the sail animated by the pins on a killer’s suspenders, nothing is left to chance.
As for the second ones, unfortunately there aren’t many, but when they finally arrive, they don’t disappoint. This is the biggest flaw of the series: given the short duration, it was reasonable to expect more action. Also because the narrative arc told features many new characters, but none are really in-depth. For many of them it was decided to push on the strength of images and looks (as in the case of the disturbing murderous twins Hansel and Gretel).
Exaggerated, “lager than life“and noisy, The Continental it does its job well, showing us a different point of view on a world we already know. However, without any particular flashes in terms of originality and twists. An appetizer of what’s coming: the spin-off is almost ready Ballerina, starring Ana de Armas, and a fifth John Wick movie has been confirmed. So all that remains is to meet up for the next lethal mission.
As written in the review of The Continental, the John Wick prequel series tells the rise of Winston Scott: thanks to three episodes of an hour and a half each, we understand how he gained control of the hotel that houses the most lethal assassins in the world. The opponent to defeat is Cormac (Mel Gibson, deliberately over the top): he is the one who puts the life of Winston’s older brother, Frankie, in danger. To save him, the protagonist returns from London to New York in the 70s. To succeed he needs a new network of alliances and weapons. Many weapons.
Because we like it
- Attention to detail: costumes, props, sets all have a style consistent with the mythology of the John Wick universe.
- The protagonist Colin Woodel has the right elegance and light in his eyes to take up Ian McShane’s baton.
- Mel Gibson offers an over-the-top, but charismatic performance.
- The Continental works overall, but chooses to focus on writing that is not particularly original.
- It was reasonable to expect more action scenes.
- The three episodes tell us a lot about Winston, but little about the numerous new characters.