‘The Continental:’ Expect much action and John Wick-type violence

Mel Gibson is the hotel’s ‘egotistical manager.’

By Wendell Gaa

“Guns.  Lots of guns…”

These now iconic words uttered by the antihero John Wick — portrayed by Keanu Reeves — which have since entered the pop cultural lexicon are exactly what you will hear again in the opening episode of “The Continental,” a crime action mini-series which serves as a prequel to the “John Wick” film series.

“The Continental” focuses on the background story to Winston Scott, the proprietor of the “The Continental” chain of hotels which serves as a neutral haven for legal assassins on the condition that no business may ever take place within their buildings.  British actor Ian McShane portrays an older Winston in the movies while in this mini-series, his younger character version is played by American actor Colin Woodell. 

Set in gritty 1970s New York, the mini-series explores how young Winston ascended to his position as chief administrator of “The Continental” hotel and how he came around to forging a longtime alliance with Charon, his ever-loyal hotel concierge so brilliantly portrayed by the late Lance Reddick in the “John Wick” films.   

As the series opens, we learn how the Continental Hotel in Manhattan is managed by an unsavory and egotistical manager named Cormac O’Connor, played by longtime Hollywood veteran Mel Gibson.  It is further revealed that he has raised Winston and his older brother Frankie from childhood to a life of crime.  As adults, Winston has moved to London to seek a high life while Frankie has turned to living off as an assassin and bounty hunter just to make ends meet.  In no time do we witness Frankie undertaking a mission at the Continental to steal a press used by the enigmatic organization known as the High Table to mint gold coins.  Watching his skills in dodging and eliminating all who stand in his way is an instant indication to how much substantial action will be recurrent in this spectacular mini-series.   

Colin Woodell portrays the young hotel owner Winston Scott.

Displeased by the stunt pulled off by Frankie, the High Table pressures Cormac to have Winston abducted from London and taken back to New York where he can be interrogated on Frankie’s whereabouts.  Having been estranged from his brother for many years, Winston denies any knowledge of Frankie’s location and is then set free, although Cormac has him followed by his henchmen. 

Winston’s former colleague Charlie links him up with siblings Lou and Miles, weaponry-runners and owners of a karate dojo.  Miles, Frankie’s fellow Vietnam War comrade, helps lead Winston to Frankie where he learns he has married another assassin named Yen, a Vietnamese with a troubled past.  Soon enough, trouble ensues.

As one can expect when watching a series set in the same universe of the “John Wick” movies, there is much action and graphic violence depicted in all three episodes of “The Continental.” Each has a running time of at least an hour-and-a-half, thereby giving the mini-series a feel of actually being three separate movies running back-to-back.  If this type of entertainment is not your thing, then no need to bother to even getting past the first 15 minutes of the first episode here!  But otherwise, the same type of engrossing thrill-a-minute awe which has drawn so many fans to addictively watching all four of the ”John Wick” films (with “John Wick 4” being my personal favorite film for 2023 thus far) is also what you will find in “The Continental.”

“The Continental” provides plenty of moments of introspective dialogue and drama interspersed between the fantastically choreographed hand-to-hand and gunbattle action sequences.  Interestingly, a recurring theme in the mini-series is the rise of the American mafia to economic prestige, which is reflective of actual urban crime lords who rampantly came to prominence in major cities such as New York and Chicago throughout the 20th century.   

Colin Woodell does a solid performance of Winston Scott in his younger years as an initially naïve yet evolvingly sharp businessman learning how to play the survival cards right in dealing with both allies and adversaries from the corporate and mafia world.  Mel Gibson is quite the scene-stealer as the series’ unscrupulous main villain.  Arguably the biggest crowd pleaser here is relatively unknown Vietnamese actress Nhung Kate as the lethal Yen.  Her tragic backstory only adds more to her allure and mystique, and she simply has some of the most thrilling and nail-biting action scenes which I have seen anywhere either on film or TV!  I personally hope this role will help further thrust her presence into mainstream Hollywood, which indeed would be another success for international Asian talent. 

© The FilAm 2023

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