December 7, 2023

Director Albert Hughes warned me forward of the ultimate episode of Peacock’s John Wick spinoff sequence The Continental — by the use of establishing the ultimate all-out assault organized by a younger Winston Scott the present had been constructing as much as — that issues have been about to get fairly bushy. “Balls-to-the-wall, bat-s**t loopy,” have been, in actual fact, his actual phrases.

If you happen to haven’t but caught as much as the finale of The Continental that dropped on Friday, spoiler alert: The person wasn’t kidding. Hughes directed the primary and third episodes of this 3-part shoot-a-rama set in and across the John Wick universe’s lodge for criminals, and Episode 3, titled Theatre of Ache, is certainly … rather a lot.

It’s principally 90ish minutes of gunplay, explosions, brutal battle scenes, bludgeonings, impalements, exquisitely choreographed martial arts, and customarily wacky chaos set to a soundtrack of funk and soul classics that deliver some levity to the unrelenting insanity. It is a finale through which a killer at one level snorts coke off the blade of a machete, and a C4 vest brings a climactic battle scene to a satisfyingly explosive finish.

Kirk Ward as Kachynski and Colin Woodell as Winston in “The Continental.” Picture supply: Katalin Vermes/Starz Leisure

The ‘disco noir’ of Peacock’s The Continental

All of which is to say — The Continental is as a lot an assault in your senses as it’s on the noirish, imposing lodge itself.

As of Friday, the whole restricted sequence is now out there to stream on Peacock. And should you’re a fan of the $1 billion, four-film John Wick franchise starring Keanu Reeves, you then already knew the ending the present was going to reach at: The Continental within the fingers of a extra crafty than he appears Scott, whose possession appears assured after he [spoiler] that masked Excessive Desk adjudicator within the closing moments of the present.

Understanding The Continental needed to unfold towards that final finish — that Colin Woodell’s Scott, for instance, was by no means going to be in any actual hazard — the success of the present thus rested fully on its execution, no pun supposed. And oh boy did this present have some exacting requirements to try to reside as much as on that entrance.

The Continental on Peacock
Mel Gibson as Cormac O’Connor. Picture supply: Katalin Vermes/Starz Leisure

As a result of not solely does the John Wick universe demand of any and all spinoffs a tongue wedged firmly in cheek; over-the-top villains; and, above all else, jaw-dropping battle scenes — this can be a prequel we’re speaking about right here, one which takes place many years earlier than the flicks.

In different phrases, everybody’s favourite character is nowhere to be discovered. 

‘There are guidelines at play right here, foolish boy’

That time is an enormous cause for most of the scathing critiques from critics who’ve panned the present as a pale imitation of the flicks, devoid of the razzle-dazzle and the star who made them a lot enjoyable. “Masses incident and exposition into its 4 and a half hours (over three feature-length episodes) however nonetheless feels formless and vague,” tut-tuts The New York Occasions.

The Continental on Peacock
Nhung Kate as Yen in “The Continental.” Picture supply: Katalin Vermes/Starz Leisure
The Continental on Peacock
Mark Musashi as Hansel. Picture supply: Starz Leisure

The present’s Rotten Tomatoes viewers rating, in distinction, presently stands at a decent 80%, kind of a rebuke of the critics who whined about all the pieces from The Continental’s casting of Mel Gibson because the villain to the battle scenes not wanting as elegant as these from the flicks (extra on that in a second).

What I particularly needed to listen to from Hughes, in the meantime, is: Why a prequel in any respect? Why a deal with Winston Scott? And why middle all the pieces across the hotel-for-killers, on condition that the character of John Wick himself as performed by Keanu is, after all, roughly 99% of the rationale why followers beloved the flicks within the first place?

“The primary script had already been accomplished when it got here to me,” Hughes mentioned throughout our dialog. “There was no tracing the place it might go, it was only a script that I learn, and I’m going ‘Wow, that is attention-grabbing, and it’s from that world of John Wick and escapism.”

Increasing the world of the flicks

They’d go on to “noodle” some on that script, setting the stage for this new world populated by kooky killers and crafty antiheroes. Episode 2 dived much more into backstories and was largely character-based as Winston assembled his crew within the lead-up to the you-know-what hitting the fan in Episode 3.

“We have been all popping out of attempting occasions, Covid, and wired,” Hughes continued. “And I mentioned, I simply wish to have enjoyable. I feel the viewers simply desires to have enjoyable. That’s what I see in these films. And I assumed it was a fairly cool concept to discover one of the vital mysterious components of the John Wick movie sequence, the Continental …The ‘why’ (a couple of prequel), to offer you a clear reply, was simply to have enjoyable and discover extra of the mythology and the thriller of the Continental and among the Excessive Desk guidelines that come together with the flicks.”

The present, shot in Budapest and Los Angeles, was being made as John Wick: Chapter 4 was ending its first spherical of post-production. John Wick director Chad Stahelski gave Hughes some recommendation — don’t attempt to copy the flicks. Do your personal factor, and don’t be afraid to have a bit of enjoyable with it. What Hughes and the remainder of the crew behind The Continental ended up making, amongst different issues, was a TV sequence just about in identify solely. The three episodes of the restricted sequence are actually three movie-length tasks — albeit, with out the advantage of with the ability to unfold their motion sequences throughout an enormous display, just like the Wick movies might.

The Continental on Peacock
Jessica Allain as Lou. Picture supply: Katalin Vermes/Starz Leisure

Format-wise, with its ft in each worlds, the present might take its time with out feeling the conventional size constraints of a present. And as for the critics who’ve groused that The Continental’s battle scenes aren’t in the identical league as the flicks, Hughes counters that there was a distinction by design. The battle fashion, he says, is supposed to evoke the 70s.

‘Love. Are you able to dig it?’

“It’s not going to be the best way it’s in John Wick, which could be very trendy, very MMA, with new weapons and new strategies with weapons. Frankie (Scott, Winston’s brother) had a extra Marine fashion of preventing and gunplay. You needed to go retro with all the pieces, principally. The preventing, the look, the sound, the manufacturing design. Automobiles. You’re making a time interval that doesn’t exist anymore.”

The Continental on Peacock
Colin Woodell as Winston Scott. Picture supply: Katalin Vermes/Starz Leisure

Early on within the course of, Hughes and showrunner Kirk Ward determined to put in writing the phrases “Disco Noir” on a wall the place they have been working. It could function a North Star, emblematic of the vibe they needed to make sure pervaded the present. Earlier than lengthy, music stuffed their workroom — everybody taking turns sharing favourite tracks from their youth that might inform a soundtrack that veers from Donna Summers’ I Really feel Love, the very first music we hear, to New York Groove from KISS guitarist Ace Frehly’s 1978 solo album, that final music earlier than the credit roll.

And that ultimate music is, I feel, a note-perfect approach to deliver the curtains down on an uneven however escapist romp that hardcore Wick followers ought to actually haven’t any hassle appreciating. I dare say, you can even think about John Wick’s cravat-wearing buddy himself buzzing alongside, as he drives away into the evening, The Continental now firmly in his management: “At the back of my Cadillac / a depraved girl sitting by my facet, saying ‘The place are we?’ / Stopped at third and 43, exit to the best / It’s gonna be ecstasy / This place was meant for me.