Streaming on: Prime Video
Episodes viewed: 3 of 3
"Guns," declares Colin Woodell at the end of episode one. “Lots of guns.” Keanu Reeves might not appear in this particular slice of the John Wickiverse, but he still casts a long shadow. What, after all, is John Wick without Wick himself? Arriving ahead of next year’s spin-off film Ballerina, this three-part origin story for the saga’s dapper hotelier Winston Scott (Ian McShane replaced here by the fresher-faced Woodell) provides the answer. After his estranged brother Frankie (Ben Robson) steals the template for the High Table’s infamous gold coins, Winston — along with his ubiquitous cravat — is dragged before the Continental hotel’s current major-domo Cormac O’Connor (a scenery-chewing Mel Gibson) and tasked with recovering the goods.
With its trio of feature-length episodes keeping the story tight, The Continental quickly resolves itself into a team-based heist caper in which Winston, along with dojo-owning siblings Miles (Hubert Point-Du Jour) and Lou (Jessica Allain), as well as Frankie’s wife Yen (Nhung Kate; and the focus of the most unlikely meet-cute ever conceived) put together a team in order to bring down Cormac and seize the eponymous hotel, a secret base for hitmen. We already know how this story ends, of course, but the joy here is very much in the execution — or rather, executions.
Instruments of murder are many and varied, resulting in a gallery of mortal dispatches that doesn’t get tired.
Directors Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, The Book Of Eli) and Charlotte Brändström (The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power) may not quite have Chad Stahelski’s flair for elaborately staged carnage, but the action here does no dirty to the John Wick name. Instruments of murder are many and varied (axe, guillotine, golf club, cinema seat), resulting in a gallery of mortal dispatches that doesn’t get tired and culminates in a near hour-long firefight in the final episode. It helps that — as you would expect from the world of Wick — the assortment of misfit killers are distinct and bursting with personality, from Lou’s no-nonsense, gun-shunning karateka, to Ray McKinnon’s eccentric sniper, a kilt-wearing thug with spidery mascara, and a pair of murderous twins named Hansel and Gretel, with matching coats and aggressive fringes.
The show’s autumnal palette and litter-strewn streets complement bell bottoms and appropriately funky needle drops to fully evoke the era, giving the series’ urban fantasy a flavour distinct from the films, while dotting each episode with enough references and in-jokes to keep everything connected. We arguably didn’t need a detailed backstory for McShane’s leathery innkeep, and much of the High Table’s more intriguing aspects are left frustratingly in the wings (a lone Adjudicator is our main link to the broader mythology), but with guns (lots of them), charm and buckets of style, The Continental is proof that John Wick is more than just a man.