The Continental (Prime Video, from Friday) is a spin-off of the popular John Wick movies, where Keanu Reeves reluctantly murders hundreds of people (just to be realistic, he pauses now and then to reload his many, many firearms). But it also feels like a backdoor apology by Prime Video for the appalling “Oirish” hobbits from last year’s Lord of the Rings prequel, The Rings Of Power.
In that series, the proto-hobbits spoke like primordial versions of the dodgy Irish builders in Fawlty Towers. The Continental, by contrast, is full of real Irish people, with real Irish accents, and not a begorra in sight – all for no obvious reason and without the script ever pausing to acknowledge it.
Five minutes in, we’re introduced to Patrick Bergin, as a dodgy businessman in London. He looks distressed: presumably he’s flashing back to his performance in Michael Flatley’s Blackbird. Later, singer Loah – real name Sallay-Matu Garnett – pops up as the concierge at the eponymous Continental, the hotel in 1970s New York where hired killers come to hang (the story takes place 50 years before John Wick).
The Continental’s manager is played by Mel Gibson, who seems to have been un-cancelled. His name is Cormac O’Connor, and it would not be a shock if his backstory involved winning a minor county medal. Oh, and then we’re introduced to Ashford, Co Wicklow’s Katie McGrath as the Adjudicator – a masked representative of the shadowy High Table which secretly runs the world (think the GAA with semi-automatic weapons).
By now, you’re wondering where it will end. Could there be a scene where a cello player at the hotel randomly announces he’s received a scholarship to study in Ireland? Of course! Might the mother of the young Winston Scott (Ian McShane in the films, and here portrayed by Colin Woodell) turn out to be Irish, too? Yes – she’s played by Dublin soprano Lucy O’Byrne. Will the Two Johnnies have a cameo as international assassins who club their victims to death with rolled-up copies of the Farmers Journal? No – but I was holding out hope right up to the credits.
It’s always pleasing to encounter familiar accents in the wild. Not that they have anything to do with the plot, which focuses on a struggle for power between Gibson’s Cormac and the young Winston after Winston’s brother steals something precious from the Continental.
Irish intonations aside, is it any good? Yes – provided you appreciate the manic gunplay of the Keanu movies. These are widely acknowledged as taking the action genre to the next level, and if you enjoy watching people shoot each other at close quarters, you’ll want to book a room at The Continental. It’s fabulously frenetic fun and leans into its 1970s setting, with a soundtrack brimming with Pink Floyd, Supertramp and The Who. It’s almost enough to make you forgive Prime Video for the “holding on for begorrah” nonsense of the Rings of Power.