The Continental review: John Wick prequel proves more isn't always better

The series premieres on 22 September

Pictured: Colin Woodell as Winston Scott -- (Photo by: Katalin Vermes/Starz Entertainment) - The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)
Colin Woodell as Winston Scott in The Continental (Prime Video)
  • 📺 Where to watch The Continental: Premieres on Prime Video on Friday, 22 September

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🍿 Watch it if you liked: The John Wick franchise, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

  • 🎭 Who's in it?: Colin Woodell, Mel Gibson, Mishel Prada, Hubert Point-Du Jour, Nhung Kate, Ayomide Adegun, Jessica Allain

  • How long is it? 3 episodes, approximately 1 hour 30 minutes each

  • 📖 What’s it about? Winston Scott is drawn into the cruel world of The High Table after his brother Frankie steals a precious item from Cormac, the head of The Continental in New York City. Both in the firing line, Winston decides to find his brother and take on Cormac before it's too late.

John Wick's future may be unclear right now but the world that Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves created lives on in The Continental, the first spin-off of the hit franchise.

Set in the 1970s, The Continental takes viewers back to the youth of Winston Scott (played by Ian McShane in the original films) and explains how he came to become the head of the show's titular New York City hotel and reach the upper echelons of the High Table.

Read more: John Wick: Could Chapter 5 be back on the cards?

In the Prime Video series, Winston (Colin Woodell) is brought to New York City after his brother Frankie (Ben Robson) steals an invaluable item from Cormac (Mel Gibson), the current head of The Continental.

Winston makes it his mission to find his brother before Cormac can, and starts planning ways to take the leader down by assembling a crew.

Cormac (Mel Gibson)                                       - The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)
Mel Gibson in Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)

When viewers first met Winston in 2014's John Wick, he was at his peak; a leader with a twinkle in his eye and whose allegiances you could never truly trust, but The Continental finds him a different man, one with the same charm but none of the power — not yet, at least.

The Continental goes to some lengths to try and explain how Winston came to be the man we know, and while the show starts out strong it becomes bogged down by its plot, which is more of a slog than it ought to be given it's jam-packed with thrilling action sequences.

It doesn't help that the three-part series has feature-length episodes, and it's hard not to feel that the series could have done with some editing, or at least that it would have benefitted from having more episodes that were shorter in length.

Yen (Nhung Kate), Frankie (Ben Robson) - The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)
Yen (Nhung Kate), Frankie (Ben Robson) in The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)

But perhaps the biggest sin of all is that, somehow, Winston is one of the most boring characters in The Continental. He has the suits and the dialogue but none of the gravitas of his predecessor (or should we say successor).

Read more: What we know about John Wick's spin-off movie Ballerina

Winston's crew also had a lot of wasted potential. Jessica Allain's martial arts expert Lou and Nhung Kate's Vietnamese fighter Yen were highlights of the ensemble cast thanks to their high octane fight scenes and touching personal stories but they were too underdeveloped to have much of an impact.

The Continental is only able to scratch the surface with these characters, and the show's limited amount of episodes means there isn't enough time to get invested in them or truly get to know their personal struggles — not in the way they deserved, at least.

Pictured: Hubert Point-Du Jour as Miles, Jessica Allain as Lou -- (Photo by: Katalin Vermes/Starz Entertainment) - The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)
Hubert Point-Du Jour as Miles, Jessica Allain as Lou in The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)

Even Charon — originally played by Lance Reddick and now depicted by Ayomide Adegun — is too underdeveloped in The Continental.

We are given a glimpse of his personal life such as his romantically-charged connection with a cellist named Thomas (Samuel Blenkin), and a reflective conversation he shares with Winston that sheds life on his youth in Nigeria, but it is not enough to give Charon effective character growth.

One can't help but think there are too many characters for too little screen-time, everyone needed more time dedicated to their personal journeys.

Charon (Ayomide Adegun)                                  - The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)
Charon (Ayomide Adegun) in The Continental: From The World of John Wick (Prime Video)

The Continental will intermittently remind you that it is a prequel to the John Wick movies by using some of the same dialogue (unsurprisingly the line "I need guns... lots of guns" doesn't work as well if it's not said by Reeves) and mirroring the action that fans love the franchise for.

What other critics thought of The Continental:

Variety: John Wick’ Hotel Prequel ‘The Continental’ Isn’t Worth a Stay (5-min read)

Evening Standard: John Wick spinoff series is an absolute blast (5-min read)

The Wrap: Adequate Action Doesn’t Keep ‘John Wick’ Spin-Off From Falling Flat (7-min read)

At the very least the action is exciting. The show's opening sequence of Frankie's heist at The Continental was a particularly strong opener for its intensity and the character's wild fights that would make John Wick proud, given their similar fighting style.

The show also continues the trend of characters shooting more than strictly necessary and using nearly anything as a weapon, and it's these moments where the Prime Video shines.

But it also just reminds viewers of better times, of a story told in a better way and with better action, and ultimately shows that more doesn't always mean better.

The Continental premieres on Friday, 22 September on Prime Video.

Watch the trailer for The Continental: