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‘The Continental’ Review: ‘John Wick’ Prequel Disappoints

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I’ll give “The Continental” this: of all the explanations the “John Wick” prequel frustrates, underwhelms and disappoints, the involvement of Mel Gibson barely manages to rank. That, not less than, is a serious accomplishment.

The three-part collection, subtitled “From the World of John Wick,” was anticipated by a gentle stream of purple flags: a niche of greater than half a decade between the official greenlight and Wednesday’s premiere; the transfer from Starz, a community owned by franchise studio Lionsgate, to Peacock; the information that Chad Stahelski, the stunt performer turned motion auteur, wouldn’t direct any episodes, although he retains an government producer credit score. (Let’s additionally throw within the casting of Gibson, whose rehabilitation after a historical past of racism, antisemitism and alleged home violence has been as dispiriting as it’s inevitable.) In its last type, “The Continental” bears these misgivings out. The present lacks the star energy and visible panache of “John Wick,” and what it provides is immediately at odds with the films’ supply of enchantment.

Developed by Greg Coolidge, Kirk Ward and Shawn Simmons, “The Continental” stars Colin Woodell as a youthful model of Winston Scott (Ian McShane), the proprietor of the titular boarding home’s New York department. Asking an actor to channel presence and gravitas like McShane’s is actually a suicide mission, and “The Continental” solely makes issues worse by framing Winston as a faint echo of Keanu Reeves’ avenging ex-assassin, transplanted to Nineteen Seventies New York and weighed down with pointless backstory. 

The great thing about “John Wick” is its mix of baroque extra with elegant simplicity. The primary film had a bare-bones plot, a skeleton scaffolding on which to hold set piece after set piece. John Wick’s canine, a present from his deceased spouse, is killed; these accountable should endure. Solely in subsequent installments was this Hammurabic fable constructed into an elaborate mythology. A world, underground community of contract killers is ruled by a sacred code and a shadowy group recognized solely because the Excessive Desk. The Continental, with its many areas, is the place they will conduct their enterprise in security — supplied they will pay their means with a particular coin. However because the world round him expands, John Wick stays an virtually comically single-minded determine, combating and grunting his technique to a hard-won demise on the finish of “Chapter 4.”

“The Continental” spoils this delicate stability. Winston’s main motivation is the loss of life of his brother Frankie (Ben Robson), which units him on a collision course with the Continental’s sadistic supervisor Cormac (Gibson). However this premise isn’t in place till the closing scenes of the 86-minute pilot, which suggests it takes “The Continental” almost the size of the complete first “John Wick” film even to set its story in movement. In all that point, neither Frankie nor Winston stand out as compelling leads; we’re merely instructed to care about them through black-and-white flashbacks to their impoverished Bronx childhoods that open every episode.

The season stretches the three-act construction of a film into three episodes, every themselves the size of a function movie. First, Winston units his sights on Cormac; Woodell’s growling supply of the road “Guns. I need lots of guns” is a transparent, if futile, try to channel Reeves. Then, he assembles a crew, together with Frankie’s ex-partner Yen (Nhung Kate) and arm-dealing siblings Lou (Jessica Allain) and Miles (Hubert Level-Du Jour). Lastly, the three mount an assault on The Continental itself, punching and slashing their means by means of the halls. The conclusion is foregone, but “The Continental” shuffles towards it with out the type or verve that may make the journey worthwhile. A neon-lit celebration scene is a pale imitation of, say, the Rome rager from “Chapter 2,” and the all-important battle scenes are largely forgettable. Apart from Cormac, the primary antagonists are a pair of killer twins who go by Hansel (Mark Musashi) and Gretel (Marina Mazepa), one other faint echo of a previous Reeves masterwork. The colour palette is usually precisely the drab, desaturated mess the films supply a refreshing break from. 

Regardless of the title, “The Continental” gives little new info as to the resort’s origins or operations, which may be of curiosity to devoted “John Wick” followers. As a substitute, the present heaps on emotional context that runs counter to the movies’ suave minimalism. After his loss of life, Frankie will get retroactive exposition about his time within the Vietnam Conflict; a police detective named KD (Mishel Prada) takes an curiosity in Winston, spoiling the collection’ magical absence of regular legislation enforcement in favor of assassins’ secretive self-government. Solely Charon (Ayomide Adegun), the long run concierge first performed by the late Lance Reddick, comes off as a recognizable character we nonetheless see a brand new facet of, right here a loyal protegé to Cormac. And Gibson, nonetheless distasteful as a public determine, is not less than successfully menacing.

There are flashes of Wickian irreverence right here and there, although setting a violent beatdown to an upbeat pop track loses its appeal the umpteenth time round. However “The Continental” nonetheless comes off like a grave misunderstanding of what lovers would possibly need from a “John Wick” with out John Wick. Subsequent 12 months, the film “Ballerina” will make a second try at extension, this time with Ana de Armas. As a primary attempt, “The Continental” gives a lot to enhance on.

The primary episode of “The Continental” will premiere on Peacock on Friday, Sept. 22, with remaining episodes streaming weekly on Fridays.

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