As much as I enjoy reviewing the plentiful content domestic Canadian cinema has on offer, my ears perk up whenever I hear of a Hollywood project acknowledging Canada’s very existence. Enough southern projects shoot up here, so why not use us as a setting? At least that’s what I assumed we would be getting from The Man From Toronto. But aside from a single scene, the film has little use for Canada’s largest city, nor does the titular character display anything distinctly Torontonian or Canadian for that matter.Instead we are treated/subjected to the most painful “buddy”” action comedy since Jackie Chan’s Skiptrace.
Underachiever Teddy (Kevin Hart) has such a failed track record as a gym promoter and husband that his very name has become a derogatory verb (to “Teddy” a situation). Dark cloud or no, he has still somehow managed to score a lovely wife Lori (Jasmine Mathews) for whom he is determined to deliver the epic anniversary weekend. Unfortunately, a “low toner” situation causes him to misread the address of his cabin rental leading him to the wrong place at the wrong time where he is mistaken for the eponymous vicious assassin The Man From Toronto (Woody Harelson).
One FBI raid later, and Teddy is shanghaied into continuing to pose as Toronto in order to bring down his client, Colonel Marin who plans to assassinate the new Venuzuelan president at a Washington DC event. Toronto isn’t pleased with this arrangement and soon hijacks Teddy for his own ends. But when Toronto’s handler (Ellen Barkin) loses faith in her asset and calls in a newer model, “The Man From Miami” (Pierson Fodé) to take over the assignment, forcing Teddy and Toronto into a reluctant partnership to derail the assasination and save Teddy’s marriage.
Kevin Hart is generally at his best while doing standup (Kevin Hart: What Now?) and as part of an ensemble (Jumanji sequels). His ability to carry any film, much less a nearly two hour one is extremely limited and combining him with a one-note Woody Harrelson only worsens the peanut butter and sardine sandwich that is this movie.
“Jokes” that run too long, chemistry that fails to generate and above all, characters that we couldn’t care less if they made it through the 112 minutes it takes to slog through to the end credits which themselves don’t even have the decency to let you leave without subjecting you to a groaner of a comic coda that only repeats the ill-conceived notes of the last final scene.
Director Patrick Hughes has had better luck in the past with titles like The Hitman’s Bodyguard, but he had the Grade-A screen magnetism of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson to work with then and even that winning combination couldn’t sustain the train wreck of a sequel that followed. The triple-writer screenplay does him no favors with single-gear characterizations that fail to shift in any meaningful direction and even the ambitious pieces fail to register much enthusiasm.
The film does find a spark of redemption in an impressively staged fight in a gym that employs kinetic long takes, solid stunt work and just enough CGI-magic to weave it all together. If the same aptitude was applied to the rest of the script, we might have more than a YouTube clip’s worth of film worth watching.
While The Man From Toronto didn’t start out as a Netflix original, it has all the hallmarks of one. The same watered down, PG-13, vanilla mainstream playing-it-safe feeling that seems to bedevil most of the films that get promoted at the top of the Netflix homepage before disappearing into the rest of he content. It’s almost as if content that ends up being viewable for free (albeit via a subscription) will be inevitably be of less value than the ones that require a dedicated price at admission. For now, either go watch Hitman’s Bodyguard again or wait for Bullet Train to drop.
The Man From Toronto can currently be streamed on Netflix worldwide