Peacock’s John Wick spinoff, The Continental, has had a secret weapon lurking within the shadows. And within the third and ultimate episode of the restricted sequence, she was lastly unleashed.
That weapon is Ukrainian actress, mannequin, dancer, and contortionist Marina Mazepa, finest often called the bodily performer behind the unforgettable Gabriel from James Wan’s Malignant. In The Continental, she’s Gretel, one half of the hard-to-miss murderer twins Hansel and Gretel. Their bowl cuts and expressionless faces have distinguished them as promisingly cool opponents for our protagonists from the beginning. We had seen Gretel casually doing the splits across the resort, however there weren’t many different hints to tip viewers off to Mazepa’s distinctive set of abilities or how they’d be deployed.
That each one modifications in one of many finale’s climactic fights, the place Gretel takes on Yen (Nhung Kate) on the rooftop of The Continental, delivering over-the-head scorpion kicks and bending her limbs in ways in which appear bodily unimaginable, in a scene paying homage to Day Shift’s contortionist vampires. It’s a reveal by design, motion director Larnell Stovall (who credit Day Shift director J.J. Perry as a mentor) instructed Polygon.
“We held again on the contortion stuff as a lot as we may, as a result of I wished that to have its personal story,” Stovall says. “You didn’t know what she actually dropped at the desk till that struggle scene. So I’m grateful [the writers] held her character again so much. After which rapidly, you’re like, Oh, shit, that is what she’s able to? However when you noticed that all through the entire time, there in all probability wouldn’t have been as many surprises.”
The struggle begins 72 minutes into the 97-minute finale and lasts for 4 wonderful minutes, starting with a Western standoff as the 2 glare at one another on the roof of the resort earlier than discarding their respective weapons and silently agreeing to a close-quarters struggle.
Abruptly, the 2 cost at one another, as Yen goes for a takedown round Gretel’s waist, sending her to the bottom. This combating type displays Nhung Kate’s MMA background — she has fought in cage matches, and trains along with her companion and fellow martial artist Johnny Trí Nguyễn (Da 5 Bloods) — and supplied an attention-grabbing alternative for Stovall and his workforce to juxtapose the 2 actors’ backgrounds as bodily performers.
Photograph: Katalin Vermes/Starz Leisure
“You are taking every fighter individually, you’re employed with them, you discover what makes them who they’re as a fighter, and then you definately construct upon that,” Stovall says. “Upon getting that stable base, then you possibly can deliver them collectively. Now they’ll dance, since you ship the protection parts. You’ve created the story, they’ve agreed upon it. And now after they get collectively, it makes it so much simpler for them each to agree on the move of it transferring ahead.”
Actors with an MMA background are a selected problem, as a result of they’re used to bodily contact, Stovall says.
“They’re not used to throwing actions to promote for a digital camera. They’re making an attempt to knock someone out, they’re making an attempt to place ache on someone,” Stovall says. “So our job is to deliver that to the desk, however maintain it as protected as potential. As a result of, you understand, on the finish of the day, we’re pretending, and once you say ‘Minimize!’ and somebody’s able to go seize a salad and drink their water, they need to do it comfortably. They don’t desire a busted lip, or one thing damaged.”
After Yen tackles her opponent to the bottom, the taller Gretel is ready to make her means again up once more, bringing the struggle again to a standing place. Stovall and the Continental workforce successfully distinction Yen’s forceful actions with Gretel’s size, retaining Yen at a distance, main as much as an over-the-head scorpion kick that provides us our clearest style but of Mazepa’s contortionist talents.
Whereas Mazepa’s expertise as a contortionist added additional taste to the struggle scene, Stovall says her background as a dancer helped simply as a lot.
“[A dancing background] means it’s simpler for that individual 9 instances out of 10 to recollect the choreography,” Stovall says. “However now we have to verify they’re in a position to promote it as if it’s a struggle. And that it doesn’t appear to be they’re doing a 3 rely, an eight rely of their head. So it’s nearly discovering that steadiness.”
After the scorpion kick, Yen will get Gretel again on the bottom once more and seemingly wins the struggle — till Gretel twists all of her limbs and rises up like a horror monster again from the useless, pulling her legs fully over her heads as she stands up and cracks her neck, able to brawl.
From there, Mazepa’s abilities actually shine. Yen throws a kick that Gretel dodges by bending her head and neck seemingly all the way in which again, then grips her leg round Yen’s neck at what looks like an unimaginable angle. She kicks Yen within the face out of a backwards somersault, sending her opponent flying to the bottom earlier than creeping up, limbs seemingly all over the place, able to ship the ending blow.
Picture: Starz Leisure
Nevertheless it’s not over, in fact — Yen blocks Gretel’s knife along with her hand, breaking Gretel’s leg and unleashing a sequence of stabs within the rooftop pool, in a picture that might match proper in with most slasher motion pictures. Gretel makes her means out of the pool, solely to search out Yen’s explosive vest on her for a… flamable end. And so ends the most effective struggle of Peacock’s The Continental.
Stovall says he fortunately had months to consider and plan out the struggle. He requested his workforce to play up how the 2 characters (and performers) struggle in methods which are distinctive to them.
“‘Don’t simply give attention to kicks and punches,’” Stovall says he instructed his workforce. “‘Don’t simply give attention to the latest cool throw that everyone’s seen on YouTube, OK? Make it imply one thing by the point you do a throw. Make the throw be one thing that’s avoiding one thing, or if somebody’s in ache, let’s maintain the ache constant.’”
Then got here the most effective half: working Mazepa and Nhung Kate into the scene.
“They added their very own taste, and so they beloved it,” Stovall says. “From there it was only a matter of constructing the dance easy [and] environment friendly. So by the point it was time to activate that viciousness, you believed it.
“Kate, she’s like a buzzsaw. When she goes, she goes. And Marina, who was sort of sluggish and methodical all the means — it felt good for her to go, Hmm, let’s play. The love that went into it, the ache that went into it, as a result of these women went at it. There was a number of bodily contact. And I feel it wanted that.”
He in contrast the scene to arguably the most effective struggle he’s ever directed: Yuri Boyka (Scott Adkins) vs. Raul “Dolor” Quinones (Marko Zaror) in Undisputed 3. It’s straightforward to see why; each are full tales instructed by way of movement and physicality, each decelerate the motion in key moments to let the storytelling breathe, each distinction a smaller and stronger fighter with a taller one, and each comprise brutal combating with beautiful choreography. (Now, Undisputed Three obtained almost 10 minutes for its showstopping struggle in comparison with The Continental’s 4, however this was simply considered one of a number of spectacular finale fights for the Peacock restricted sequence.)
Picture: Starz Leisure
Gretel’s companion in crime, Hansel, additionally had his personal reveal of kinds within the third episode. The half was performed by Stovall’s good pal Mark Musashi, a talented martial artist and practitioner of wushu. His creepy efficiency as Hansel was praised as “serial killer-like” by Stovall, who instructed Musashi his character was mainly a silent model of Jet Li’s Danny from Unleashed, who was skilled into being basically an assault canine for the person that raised him, with none actual connection to different people.
“He was in a position to deliver a number of taste to it,” Stovall says. “It allowed me to sneak in some anime pictures, in the way in which he was filmed and designed. So you understand, hopefully some individuals catch that; that’s on function.”
For Hansel, his arc within the present culminates in a terrific struggle scene in The Continental’s Pool Corridor towards Miles (Hubert Level-Du Jour) and Lou (Jessica Allain).
Just like the Yen-versus-Gretel showdown, Hansel’s ultimate struggle breaks new floor in making full use of the various abilities on show within the solid. In fact, the Gretel struggle nonetheless has the sting, due to Mazepa’s contortionism, which brings a brand new jolt to the high-octane motion sequences. With strikes like that, it’s no shock her flip in Malignant was as indelible because it was. Malignant was among the best surprises of 2021 in motion pictures. The Continental is among the finest surprises of the yr in tv. Marina Mazepa, I can’t wait to see what you do subsequent.
All three episodes of The Continental: From the World of John Wick are actually streaming on Peacock.