Non-spoiler review for The Continental: From The World Of John Wick.
The John Wick franchise has quickly become a beloved staple of modern action, pushing boundaries in both choreography and in the nuances and subtlety of the characters as well as how with each installment they push the mythos forward in some new way.
Of course, it was only natural with success like this that beyond the four films the world had to expand, which was set to include the previously announced Ana De Armas-helmed spinoff film Ballerina releasing next year, as well as the creative team tossing around spinoffs for Lawrence Fishbourne’s The Bowery King and Rina Sawayama’s Akira, the first spinoff wasn’t a movie at all but a televised miniseries in the form of an origin story for Ian McShane’s Winston and the hotel he presides over, The Continental.
As a concept, there’s certainly room to explore in a prequel to the Wick universe, with many mysteries left unanswered, many characters we know only fragments about, and many factions we know even less of. As such it’s a shame that as a prequel this creates more questions rather than answers any of the pressing ones. Winston is as always a likeable and interesting character, and before this goes any further I just want to say I was thoroughly impressed with Colin Woodell embodying Winston, it felt like a natural extension of what McShane brought to the performance. But that’s just it, he’s the exact same character with no real growth therein. In fact, all the returning characters are pretty enjoyable, Charon especially who’s given a lot more depth than the movies ever did and you understand his loyalty to Winston throughout this.
The plot feels in general very overlong and overwrought, for three hour and a half long episodes, I feel you could trim them down to maybe two and a half hours and make a single movie out of it all. Part of that problem stems from the fact that there are close to five subplots with one group of characters for what’s supposed to be a miniseries, and at least two of those stories are almost entirely disconnected from everything else, chief among them being the plot focused on Mel Gibson’s Cormac, and the one focused on Mishel Prada’s KD. My favorite subplot was the one focusing on the relationship between Yen and Miles, which felt like real people amidst the rejected Oceans 11 script. There’s also a strange tonal issue with the series where it lacks the class and suave professionalism of the Wick side of the universe and many scenes go on longer than they should with the oft-criticized Whedon-esque dialogue capitulated by snappy one-liners and awkward remarks, if not beholden to the poor quips then it’s the most bottom of the barrel cliches you’ve seen in a million shows before.
It’s interesting, but when this is its own thing, it’s at its best, but when it’s playing John Wick’s Greatest Hits it gets old real fast. Mel Gibson makes a good villain, the Twins are fun antagonists, and the sleazier tone is kind of fun at first, but at the same time it makes the high table look really pathetic come time of the John Wick series, it runs way too hard into the camp at one point in terms of the assassins portrayed, and my god in heaven the music used is ridiculous, mind you it’s good music, but it’s almost every other scene, I swear at least 10 recognizable songs are played throughout each episode, and it’s not like they’re in fitting scenes, half the time it’s just to be used in lieu of background music. When the Wick saga used pop music, it was one, used sparingly, and two, they used fitting songs for each given scenario, such as the incredibly well-done scene set to a French rendition of Paint it Black from Chapter 4.
It hurts for me to say this as a fan of this franchise and especially of Gibson, but this whole show reeks of missed potential. There are so many ways to make a show set in the Wick universe work, but this just seemed hellbent on getting the characters from Point A that we meet them at, to where they are by the start of the first John Wick movie, even if the leap to get there is a little confusing. This will probably attract an audience, but it wasn’t for me, again, it wasn’t awful, it just didn’t live up to what I’ve come to expect from this universe.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Check out our other review of The Continental by Chris Gallardo here.
The Continental: From the World of John Wick will stream on Peacock on September 22.
This review was written during the 2023 WGA (now resolved) and SAG-AFTRA (ongoing) strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series/movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.