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Reviewing ‘The Continental’: A Departure from John Wick

Exploring the Lackluster World of “The Continental

“The Continental” In the realm of cinematic brilliance, the “John Wick” franchise, with Keanu Reeves at its helm, dazzled audiences with its captivating visuals, intricate underworld systems, and mesmerizing choreography. It was a concoction of lethal cheekbones, nocturnal cinematography reminiscent of a teenager’s dreamland, gangster drama’s honor codes blended seamlessly with medieval fantasy, and Reeves’ meticulous and relentless combat moves. For those susceptible to its charm, it was a spellbinding experience.

A significant part of the franchise’s success was attributed to Chad Stahelski’s direction, along with David Leitch in the original “John Wick.” The films not only delivered visually but also offered witty storytelling, largely expressed through actions. Moreover, a talented ensemble cast, including Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston, and Willem Dafoe, elevated the material.

Reviewing ‘The Continental’: A Departure from John Wick (Photo by: Katalin Vermes/Starz Entertainment)

However, the future of John Wick appears to be branching off the beaten path. With an apparent sense of finality in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” the franchise now ventures into the territory of spinoffs. A standalone film centered around a different character is set for release in the near future. Simultaneously, a prequel miniseries, “The Continental,” has debuted on the Peacock streaming platform. While its full title is “The Continental: From the World of John Wick,” the series seems to hail from a distant universe altogether.

If this introduction feels like a meandering journey before reaching the heart of the matter, it’s because there isn’t much to say about the lackluster “Continental.” Despite its lengthy runtime of four and a half hours divided into three feature-length episodes, the series struggles to find a coherent identity.

The Writing Woes of “The Continental” John Wick

One likely culprit for this identity crisis is the writing team, consisting of Greg Coolidge, Ken Kristensen, Shawn Simmons, and Kirk Ward. While the films managed to deliver succinct, aphoristic dialogue, “Continental” leans heavily on verbose exchanges that never quite capture the essence of the original’s snappy banter. Furthermore, it dilutes the central theme of revenge by burdening multiple characters with formulaic and virtue-signaling backstories, lacking the emotional impact that made Wick’s journey so compelling.

Production Pitfalls

Production choices also play a role in the series’ downfall. Attempting to recreate a gritty 1970s New York City using locations and soundstages in and around Budapest, “Continental” fails to capture the authenticity it aims for. Continental itself, a luxurious underworld hotel and neutral ground for hitmen and bounty hunters in New York’s Financial District, comes to life through the character Winston Scott, portrayed by Colin Woodell, in his younger con artist days, pitted against the former proprietor Cormac, played by Mel Gibson.

As the convoluted plot unfolds with Winston assembling a team to avenge his brother, recover a priceless artifact, and take control of the hotel, the action moves through stereotypical settings like the waterfront, Chinatown, Alphabet City, and the Bowery. Unfortunately, these locations are presented with effort but lack imagination. The storytelling relies heavily on a predictable selection of 1970s music (Heart, Chicago, Gerry Rafferty, and more) to underscore story points. While period details like an Alka-Seltzer commercial, a “Coffy” poster, Pong, and references to blaxploitation kung fu films and “The Day of the Jackal” are scattered throughout, they fail to leave a lasting impact.

Underwhelming Performances

Despite the presence of a talented cast, performances suffer from a sense of mediocrity. Woodell and Ayomide Adegun, who portrays the future Continental concierge Charon, deliver capable but undistinguished performances when compared to McShane and Reddick’s iconic portrayals in the films. Mel Gibson, in a top-billed yet secondary role, fails to infuse real menace into his character, instead settling for perpetual exasperation. A few actors manage to stand out, including Marina Mazepa and Mark Musashi as eerie Teutonic killing machines, Jessica Allain as a gentler martial-arts expert, and Ray McKinnon as a folksy sharpshooter.

Action Choreography That Falls Short

In the crucial realm of action choreography, “The Continental” borrows a stylistic element from the “Wick” fight scenes, ensuring that each victim of ritualistic mayhem is shot at least twice. However, this borrowed aspect is the series’ sole connection to the original’s visceral and emotional catharsis through violence. The action choreography lacks the wit and clarity needed to transform violence into a visually and emotionally resonant experience, as seen in a well-executed musical number. Unfortunately, “The Continental” remains far from discovering this world of cinematic brilliance.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, “The Continental” falls short of the high standards set by the “John” franchise. It struggles with its identity, weakened by verbose writing and lackluster production. While it boasts a talented cast, their performances fail to shine amidst a sea of missed opportunities. Even the borrowed action choreography lacks the finesse and impact of the original. For fans of the franchise, “The Continental” may leave them longing for the charisma and brilliance that made “John Wick” a cinematic phenomenon.

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