The Man from Toronto is as familiar as assassin-centric action-comedies come, but nevertheless proves a refreshing blast of mid-summer fun on the strength of its affable performers.
New action-comedy The Man from Toronto marks a radical departure for director Patrick Hughes. Where the filmmaker’s past one-two action-comedy punch of The Hitman’s Bodyguard and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard concerned the mismatched team-up of stoic Samuel L. Jackson and zany Ryan Reynolds, The Man from Toronto features a stoic Woody Harrelson and a zany Kevin Hart, quite an immediate indictment of Hughes’ imaginative abilities. Indeed, there’s nothing found within The Man from Toronto that hasn’t been seen a hundred times before, but taken on its own terms, there’s also quite a bit of fun to be had, familiarity be damned. Hart stars as Teddy, an ineffectual loser who, as the film opens, is fired from his marketing job at a small Yorktown, PA gym — apparently we’re supposed to believe such a place would even employ a strategist — because he not only forgets to include the name and phone number of the establishment on some brochures, but also believes he has a million-dollar idea in something called “no-contact boxing.” You see, this guy is such a wuss that he doesn’t even punch when he boxes. Meanwhile, Harrelson plays the titular Man From Toronto, a world-famous assassin known for his sadistic torture skills, most of which concern him telling a long-winded story about how he witnessed a bear kill his grandfather in the icy tundra of Canada. Due to an unfortunate low-toner incident involving the printing of directions for a weekend birthday getaway for his wife, Lori (Jasmine Mathews), Teddy winds up at the wrong cabin in rural Virginia, where he is mistaken for the infamous Man From Toronto. An ensuing FBI raid results in Teddy being forced to pose as the big eponymous baddie in order to take down an international terrorist attempting to blow up the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. Before long, the real Toronto intervenes, pairing up with our comically inept hero in an effort to obtain the multi-million dollar payday he has been promised by his handler, the no-nonsense Deborah (Ellen Barkin), which is also the name of Toronto’s beloved Dodge Charger.
And so goes this comedy of contrasts, with Harrelson believably being annoyed by Hart’s hyperactive antics, the likes of which have been practically trademarked in countless of the comedian’s previous films. But Harrelson remains affable, and he commits to his role so whole-heartedly that he actually manages to create something akin to chemistry with Hart, who executes his patented bug-eyed, stammering schtick with an equal amount of gusto. Plot-wise, The Man from Toronto, courtesy of a script from Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner, contains not an ounce of originality, right down to the reveal that Toronto is actually a big old softie who gets nervous around beautiful women — including Lori’s best friend and fellow gear-head, Anna (Kaley Cuoco), who just happens to show up out of sheer contrivance — and longs to exit the assassin game and open a high-end restaurant. The film, however, moves at a clip, and thanks to DP Rob Hardy — who previously worked on Mission: Impossible — Fallout and Alex Garland’s scattered directorial efforts — looks remarkably better than most films of its ilk. The action sequences are consistently exciting and not utterly cut to shreds in the editing room, while an elaborate long take near film’s end, in which Toronto and Teddy take out a plethora of global assassins, isn’t exactly original, but still delivers the necessary visceral goods. Being the second Hart film from Sony to be sold to offer to Netflix — after last year’s better-than-it-deserved-to-be Fatherhood — it’s fair to wonder if the Hollywood studio has some personal vendetta against the comedian, who is frankly churning out better, if not exactly impressive, product than what is currently clogging movie screens. It’s a shame, because The Man from Toronto is the type of film that practically begs for the theatrical experience, a light but refreshing blast of mid-summer fun that would play like gangbusters if given the opportunity. Here’s hoping it finds an attuned audience on the small screen, where the price of cold air is debatably cheaper.
You can currently stream Patrick Hughes’ The Man from Toronto on Netflix.