After 4 films that amassed acclaim, both critically and commercially, it only makes sense that the world created within the John Wick films be continued in some form separate from the series itself; even though many are hoping the titular character’s rather definitive send-off in Chapter 4 is somehow retconned.
Next year will see the release of sidequel Ballerina, an Ana de Armas-fronted actioner taking place between John Wick 3 and 4, which could potentially earn its own series mentality, and this week delivers The Continental (or The Continental: From the World of John Wick, to really drive home its connection), a 3-part television outing that’s too long to be a film on its own accord, but too short to truly be a series devoted to expanding a world that, whilst inherently interesting in the films, was always more exciting in its suggestive building.
Attaching the John Wick name to the title feels more like a hopeful draw for potential audiences as this 1970’s set actioner is sans Keanu (obviously, given the timeline), and ultimately is only a Wick production in name only. The magnetic, mysterious aura of the films, and their penchant for violent, expertly choreographed action, is nowhere to be found here. Somewhat ironically, in attaching itself to the world of Wick, The Continental only highlights its shortcomings. On its own it appears serviceable – it gets major props for its opening action sequence alone – but there’s a certain weight that comes with aligning itself with one of the greatest genre film series of our time. A weight it isn’t able to bench with precision.
The questions I imagine many of us have regarding the world created within the John Wick films are not those that The Continental has any bother to answer, but part of the films’ brilliance is that so much of it succeeds because it defies an explanation. For the series, it’s the character of Winston (Colin Woodell, not really evoking much of Ian McShane’s energy, but doing a satisfactory job all the same) that earns prime placement, but even he somehow feels short-changed as the vast ensemble all clamour for screen time. The films understood that less is more, and given, again, this show’s episodic length, it introduces too many characters that it knows what to do with; Mel Gibson‘s turn as the current Continental operator – and Winston’s former employer – a prime example.
On the mention of Gibson (and his controversial casting), it makes sense as to why he was hired to play a drugged-up maniac, but there are so many other actors that could’ve embodied his lunacy and brought something more to the table. Woodell is a fine lead, and he works well off his right-hand Ayomide Adegun, breathing a certain intrigue into the character of Winston, who was so brilliantly portrayed by the late, great Lance Reddick in the films, and had The Continental slowed itself down to truly honour these two it could have resulted in a far more interesting series than what we have; there’s a busy-ness to the show that needs more time to gather itself.
Quite frustratingly, the third (and final) episode of The Continental easily surpasses the first two and, to its credit, it wraps up in a manner that leaves few questions or open ends. It’s not that episodes 1 and 2 are a chore, they just lack a necessity, but as a heist drama with a certain violent temperament – the action sequences are fun for a television show on its own accord, but don’t begin to touch the expertise of the films – The Continental proves a fine, distracting watch that momentarily entertains, but will leave little of an impression.
If you’re hoping that Keanu and co. have left any of their belongings behind in The Continental, you may want to check in elsewhere. For the uninitiated, you could find a few satisfactory thrills throughout, but I gather you’ll be wondering what the fuss is about. Watch the John Wick films, and then we can talk.