Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Parts of ‘The Continental’ felt like watching someone play a 1970s-themed GTA in a dusty, grimy New York with groovy music in the background. If nobody else, the series is sure to woo nostalgia enthusiasts with its assorted soundtrack, which ranges from Boney M’s ‘Daddy Cool’ to Black Sabbath’s ‘Children of the Grave’.

Created by Greg Coolidge, Shawn Simmons and Kirk Ward, “The Continental: From the World of John Wick”, is set in the same universe as the popular Keanu Reeves action films. If you haven’t seen the John Wick movies, all you need to know is that “The Continental” is a luxury hotel exclusively catering to criminals and assassins, with strict rules enforcing neutrality on its premises. The mini-series, therefore, traces the ascent of a young Winston Scott, who is abducted from London and transported to New York by individuals affiliated with “The Continental” to assist in locating his thieving older brother. Initially hunted by the organization, Winston eventually becomes its leader, so this is his origin story of sorts.

Titled “Brothers in Arms,” episode one starts with a striking black-and-white shot of two young brothers in police custody, with the older one taking the fall for his sibling’s actions. The rest of the episode, spanning almost 90 minutes, is in color and transports viewers to the disco era of the 70s, beginning with a sparkly dance party scene at The Continental. An unexpected yet thrilling heist in the first ten minutes sets the tone for the rest of the story. Ben Robson portrays Frankie Scott, who steals with something incredibly valuable from the Continental’s vault and vanishes. The hotel’s boss, Cormac O’Connor (Mel Gibson), enlists the help of Frankie’s estranged brother, Winston Scott (Colin Woodell), to track him down. However, Winston teams up with Frankie to outwit their enemies and fight back.

It takes time to warm up to the idea of Colin Woodell playing the protagonist, Winston Scott, and his surprisingly mellow introductory scene doesn’t do him any favors. Winston is depicted trying to persuade an aging multi-millionaire to invest money, but the other party appears entirely unimpressed. Some viewers might feel similarly about Colin Woodell’s performance too. Since it’s only episode one, and Winston is not nearly as criminal or nefarious as everyone around him, perhaps the upcoming episodes will allow the character to shine more.

While Winston doesn’t engage in a lot of physical action, there’s plenty of shooting, killing, and violence happening. A whole bunch of characters make their appearances in the first episode, including a young Charon (Ayomide Adegun), who is still a teenager and works for Cormac O’Connor at The Continental. Katie McGrath as a masked antagonist called “The Adjudicator”, a rival who wants Frankie too, looked like she jumped out of a Batman movie and was far more intriguing than Mel Gibson as sinister boss-man Cormac. However, her role was too brief in this episode, so I am looking forward to see how her character grows. With plenty of bad guys baying for their blood, the Scott brothers might need the help of siblings Miles (Hubert Point-Du Jour) and Lou (Jessica Lou), who run an illegal arms business with a Karate Dojo as their front.

With several callbacks to popular action films, a retro but delightful soundtrack, broody-bleak settings, and stylish fight sequences, episode one of ‘The Continental’ is a pretty entertaining start for the series. It ends with the promise of a bloodier follow-up edition. “I need guns, lots of guns” demands a vengeful Winston before the end credits roll.

You can stream “The Continental” on Amazon Prime Video.

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