The Continental, a three-part Prime series, dives into the glamorously violent world of John Wick and the early days of The Continental Hotel. Set in the bombastic world of 1970s New York City, The Continental assaults the viewer with 1970s music, explosions, and gun fights.
Set 30 to 40 years prior to the Keanu Reeves-led films, The Continental shares DNA with John Wick but tells a different kind of story. Created by Greg Coolidge, Kirk Ward and Shawn Simmons, and directed by Albert Hughes, The Continental adds an unnecessary but delightfully bonkers layer to the world of the John Wick movies.
The Continental is a chain of hotels in the world of the John Wick movies, which act as a neutral territory for assassins and other members of the crime underworld. Now, they are run mostly smoothly by Winston Scott, although it has not always been this way. This three-part miniseries fills in the gaps of how Winston rose to the top of the food chain in the world of criminal gangs and assassins.
Meet The Characters of The Continental
Set in a highly stylized 1970s New York City, a young Winston Scott gets dragged into the mysterious underworld of assassins and extreme violence. Colin Woodell seamlessly steps into Ian McShane’s shoes to play Winston. The whip-smart businessman hunts for his older brother Frankie (Ben Robson) and must deal with his ghosts along the way.
Audiences may also recognize Charon, with Ayomide Adegun taking over the role made famous by the late Lance Reddick. Charon is only a teenager here, but already learns the ways of The Continental. Some of the most heartfelt moments of this show are the quieter ones where Winston and Charon connect. These scenes play with a certain poignancy for anyone familiar with Winston’s eulogy to his concierge in John Wick 4.
In the unspecified year, New York Kingpin Cormac (Mel Gibson) owns The Continental. His version of The Continental strikes a contrast with the version seen in the modern-day-set movies. It’s rundown and corrupt, nothing like the luxurious, safe haven from the John Wick filsm. Gibson has fun chewing scenery, though his performance goes too far, almost becoming a parody by the last episode.
Frankie is joined by his wife, Yen (Nhung Kate), who lives underground and off the grid. Frankie and Winston grew up in the criminal underworld Cormac, but for various reasons drifted apart. Lou and Miles (Jessica Allain and Hubert Point-Du Joir) who run their father’s dojo, eventually join Frankie and Yen in their quest. The Vietnam War and its lingering echo cast a shadow over our characters, but it also explains how these characters have training in weaponry.
On the tails of these criminals are NYPD detectives KD (Michel Prada) and Mayhew (Jeremy Bobb). KD, fuelled by her own past, stumbles into the world of The Continental as she follows her kill instincts. These two feel like the weak link to The Continental. Married with kids, Mayhew is having an affair with KD. Prada delivers a strong performance, but the show wastes her potential in favor of The Other Woman trope. The Continental could have done so much more with her detective, a powerhouse woman ahead of her time.
Audiences will barely have time to miss John Wick (Keanu Reeves), who would have been too young to join in the fun of this 1970s-set show. The Continental provides a whole new cast of characters to watch violently attack each other, yet none of them quite has the sympathetic charm of Reeves’ leading man. Woodell plays Winston as a soulful businessman whilst Adegun nails the calmness of Charon. Fans of the recent films will easily spot the likeliness between past and present versions of these characters.
Unfortunately, with so many characters crossing paths, the show also leaves a lot of threads left dangling. Katie McGrath’s The Adjudicator (wearing a ridiculous chain strap) is style over substance, and Adam Shapiro’s Lemmy is entirely forgettable. Not forgettable are Marina Mazepa and Roy Hu’s assassins. The pair do a lot with their roles as silent assassins sent to track down Winston and his friends.
Unashamedly Bold Action Scenes
The action offers the key appeal to The Continental. In the opening 4 minutes, a multi-floor staircase shootout defies the laws of gravity and introduces the tone of the show. This miniseries focuses more on character than the movies, but this world is still at its best when giving the audience indulgent set pieces.
When The Continental becomes quiet and reflective, it can drag. While it can’t always show gunfights, bar brawls, and car chases all the time, the show never achieves the same momentum as when it’s going all out on the action. The second episode starts to sag under the weight of its drama; the writing isn't quite good enough to make the emotional scenes land completely.
The Continental never hesitates to make audacious choices with its characters and set pieces. While it often divulges into the ridiculous and nonsensical, it never bores and never plays it safe. The soundtrack plays like an overpowering jukebox of some of the biggest hits of the era, and it’s hard not to be charmed when Boney M starts to play over intense violence.
The Continental Lacks Time in The Continental
For a show called The Continental, the series lacks time spent at The Continental. The show promises to tell the backstory of how Winston turned the hotel into a safe space for assassins, but it fails to spend much time inside the building. While very much set in the world of John Wick, the show fails to add much to it.
Fans of the John Wick films may have been excited to dive into the history of these buildings, but The Continental fails to deliver. Aside from Winston and Charon, the plot has very little connection to the main narrative of the John Wick films. It spends too much time on character backstory, failing to give The Continental the time it deserves.
While it shares the visual DNA of the film series, viewers don’t have to go in with any knowledge of the movies. This trio of feature-length episodes feels loosely connected to John Wick, failing to build the world and add any extra context to existing knowledge of this universe. The prequel format also undermines any suspense; fans of the movies will go into the show already knowing who lives and who dies.
The final 97-minute episode allows this world of highly stylized assassins to shine. The jaw-dropping end set piece set in the hotel will satisfy the biggest fans of the John Wick movies, though it baffles that the show took three hours to get there.
This series should have been called Winston–he's the real star here. Anchoring the drama and the action, Woodell gives a grounded performance in a boldly manic world that almost feels comic book in its dislike of following real-world rules. Over these three episodes, Winston grows from a slimy businessman to the familiar character of the films, a man always three steps ahead of his enemies. Audiences learn about his family, his upbringing, and where his toughness comes from. Does that really add anything to the world of John Wick? Viewers can decide for themselves.
Rating: 6/10 SPECS
The Continental: From The World of John Wick will be available on Peacock starting September 22. It will be available to international audiences (outside of the US) on Prime Video in September.
Amelia Harvey is an English film and TV critic. Her great loves include quiet dramas, noisy reality TV, and ridiculous blockbusters. Amelia has been a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic since 2019 but has been writing lifestyle and entertainment articles since 2012. Her bylines include Why Now, Signal Horizon, Screen Queens, That Hashtag Show, Digital Spy and Screen Rant. An English literature graduate and former tutor, Amelia is passionate about female stories and LBGTQ+ voices.