Continental: ‘Pain’ and Pleasure as everyone checks in or checks out…

The John Wick spin-off prequel didn't go the obvious route, but still proves immensely satisfying...

Winston knows time is of the essence and readies his disparate comrades for an all-out assault on Cormac and the assassins of The Continental. But Cormac is equally aware of the dangers and organises a pre-emptive attack. With everyone racing to beat each others and some alliances still not set ins tone, will what follows be carnage or coronation… or maybe both?



Anyone bemoaning the fact that this John Wick spin-off was a slightly different beast and lacked the sheer kinetic energy of the film franchise probably had their complaints dismissed by the third and final part of this short but sweet mini-series that acts as prequel to the Keanu-Reeves action-fest.  One might well have expected the climax to the story to build up to a full-on shoot-em-up confrontations and revelations, but in Theater of Pain, all hell breaks loose far quicker than expected and from thereon in, there’s barely a pause for breath. For nearly eighty of the ninety minutes, this is pure mayhem, a full-on attack on the hotel of the title and a battle royale between several opposing forces.

Through this manic last chapter there’s still the sense of genuine character-building balanced by OTT action and snark. Yes, there’s a heightened reality to proceedings, but whenever there’s something truly absurd on show, it’s not long before the personal stakes pull us back – and vice versa. This is a production having fun with the genre, managing to balance winks and easter-eggs to the feature films (and the 70s era as a whole) but also wanting to deliver a sense of satisfaction and set of pay-offs for its audience by the time it’s done. On those levels, it’s a rare achievement that it largely manages to succeed on all levels.

For such a large ensemble, most characters get time to shine, though Katie McGrath as The Adjudicator is (literally) criminally under-used.  Colin Woodell as the young Winston is the pivot around which everything else turns and he anchors it well – showing zeal and anger but also a sense of humility for his own past crimes. Ayomide Adegun quiet but dangerous turn as the young Charon has been another mini-series highlight. Hubert Point-Du Jour’s Miles and sister Lou (Jessica Allain) step out with a swagger from so many exploitation flicks and demonstrating  some serious martial-arts moves. (Lou’s fight with Jeremy Bobb’s  cop Mayhew is a brilliant masterclass with the brutal combat all taking place in a telephone booth that’s barely a few feet wide). Yen (Nhung Kate) has a confrontation with Gretel (Marina Mazepa) that’s more balletic and OTT, but still satisfying. Gretel’s brother Hansel (naturally) is played by Mark Musashi like a mime turned evil and is weird and mesmerising in his ability to survive… for a while. Adam Shapiro’s Lemmy gets side-lined for a bit, but has a satisfying final scene. Mishel Prada’s enigmatic KD also gets a character pay-off that I really should have seen coming.

Say what you want about Mel Gibson (and he’s had plenty controversial things to say for himself), the role of the crazed gangland boss Cormac O’Connor is something of a gift, allowing him to shred any of the heroic personas of old and give us a killer kingpin that’s far above some of the lukewarm baddies of his recent resume. This is the kind of scenery-chewing, spittle-hurling monster and character you know will have to die before the end of the piece, but it becomes worth sticking around just to see how and when he meets his inevitable demise.

And he’s not going gently into that night. There are some artificial barriers put in place to excuse him an early death, but in many ways Cormac is simply reactive throughout, furious that anyone would ever betray him, cruel to anyone who does, desperate to make excuses for his behaviour in measurements of entitlement and whose primary instinct is personal survival… willing to sacrifice anyone and everything to simply come out on top. He’s a Disney bad-guy as if repurposed for an adult audience by Tarantino.

With fresh creative talents and technological post-production evolution, we’re currently in a golden age of televisual world-building and The Continental is a great example of a production that uses those advancements yet never forgets character is king (and queen). Theater of Pain may prove indulgent and seriously OTT at times, but for most of the time it’s a penthouse equivalent of a guilty pleasure (and one with a throbbing, if occasionally overkill-level, soundtrack to die for.

'The Continental  S01  EP03  - Theater of Pain' (Streaming review)
'The Continental S01 EP03 - Theater of Pain' (Streaming review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX
  • Action Chreography