‘The Continental’ TV Review: ‘John Wick’ Prequel Drenched In Disco, Heroic Bloodshed & Mel Gibson

Keanu Reeves’ master assassin may have been left for almost dead at the end of the fourth John Wick film, but things are alive and kicking in the franchise, at least retroactively.

Or, to quote Mel Gibson, who plays the manager of the “precious” hotel for killers at the center of the ’70s and New York-set The Continental: From the World of John Wick: “Son of a bitch, where’s my f*ckin’ shotgun?”

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With more than its fair share of Me Decade revolutionaries, rats (literal and figurative) and “fun fumes,” as Gibson’s feral Cormac exclaims, The Continental primarily is a throwback to the heroic bloodshed genre perfected by Ringo Lam and John Woo in the 1980s. With more than a nod or two to 2011’s The Raid, the limited series partially directed by Albert Hughes kicks bellbottomed butt in true John Wick style over its September 22-debuting three-part run on Peacock.

Additionally, like that other recently debuted spinoff The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, The Continental is a combination of more of the same and how we got to the insanity of the Reeves films. But unlike the delicacy and Gaul-ish visual poetry of Dixon, The Continental is trashy and fun.

The story is daft and the resolutions often neglect their own setups, but that’s bull’s-eye on-brand for Wickworld. There are some moral dilemmas encountered in the hallways as a younger and vengeance-seeking Winston Scott (Colin Woodell) tries to take over the iconic establishment, but The Continental is primarily a gritty and swagger-filled romp, as it should be.

Along with Woodell and Gibson, The Continental stars Ayomide Adegun as a young Charon, the concierge played by the late great Lance Reddick in the Wick movies, and Mishel Prada as revenge-seeking NYPD Detective KD. Peter Greene, Ben Robson, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Jessica Allain, Katie McGrath and Nhung Kate also star in the series, which was created by Greg Coolidge, Kirk Ward and Shawn Simmons. The first and third installments of The Continental are helmed by Hughes, while Charlotte Brandstrom directs the middle installment.

Mel Gibson and Katie McGrath in ‘The Continental’
Mel Gibson and Katie McGrath in ‘The Continental’

The contentious Gibson, playing a one-man insane asylum in the greater madhouse of this murderous underworld, looks like he’s having his most fun onscreen in decades. The deuteragonist of the three-parter in many ways, the Lethal Weapon alum is given top billing, and Woodell struts down the avenues as a man growing into becoming Ian McShane.

The real bright lights of this sanguinary saga, however, are Prada and Adegun. No spoilers, as Peacock has insisted for almost all of the twists and turns of The Continental, but Vida vet Prada and Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes actor Adegun deliver breakout performances here that have further spinoffs tattooed all over them.

Mishel Prada in ‘The Continental’
Mishel Prada in ‘The Continental’

With that in mind — and easily viewed as companion piece of sorts to Hughes and his brother Allen’s 1995 classic Dead Presidents, which was set in 1973 — The Continental is filled with family betrayal, fatal fires, fatal fire extinguishers, a little Heart and a million Easter eggs and coin presses for the hard-core Wickheads. Stamped with crowd-pleaser all over it, The Continental’s relentless violence and an incessant need for new subscribers must be the only reasons the Lionsgate-developed series is still going to run on Peacock instead of NBC, where it really could make a splash in this rather dire, strike-ailed fall season. But with the Wick flicks also perched on Peacock, that’s the business — take it or leave it.

In that vein, at an airport more than a year ago, before Starz sold The Continental to the NBCUniversal-owned Peacock, I bumped into a Lionsgate exec who told me that as excited as he was about the then-upcoming John Wick: Chapter 4 movie, it was the TV series that really had him jazzed. I must admit, I was surprised at the enthusiasm, especially after all the lucre the Chad Stahelski-directed films had delivered to the studio.

Now that the The Continental: From the World of John Wick is almost open for check-in, I get it. Like the assassins’ world of John Wick, this is all about business – and in an ever-shifting industry, business is pretty good.

Or, as Woodell’s Winston Scott says in the series: “Remember, this is more than vengeance – this is justice.”

Title: The Continental: From the World of John Wick
Network/platform: Peacock
Premiere date: September 22, 2023
Directors: Albert Hughes, Charlotte Brandstrom
Screenwriters: Greg Coolidge, Kirk Ward
Cast: Mel Gibson, Colin Woodell, Ayomide Adegun, Mishel Prada, Peter Greene, Ben Robson, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Jessica Allain, Katie McGrath, Nhung Kate
Rating: TV-MA

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