Man from Toronto, The (United States, 2022)

June 24, 2022
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Man from Toronto, The Poster

Director Patrick Hughes doesn’t have an impressive resume. His comfort zone lies in the realm of action-comedies that aren’t as exciting or as funny as they should be (to wit: The Hitman’s Bodyguard and its lamentable sequel). The Man from Toronto, which was lensed three years ago but ended up on the shelf due to COVID-related distribution issues until rescued by Netflix, is a good fit for Hughes’ filmography. It’s fitfully entertaining but ultimately lacking. Kevin Hart tries too hard and, as a result, becomes tiresome (not unlike Ryan Reyonlds in the two Bodyguard films). The best thing (and arguably the only reason to watch) is Woody Harrelson, playing an elite assassin. If the role seems like it would be perfect for Jason Statham, that’s not a coincidence since Statham was originally cast but dropped out when he learned that the studio wanted the R-rated material to be softened enough to get a PG-13.

The Man from Toronto feels like the cold leftovers of a meal I didn’t much like in the first place. The premise suffocates the viewer with familiarity: a mismatched buddy film in which the constant loser finds a path to redemption after screwing up for most of the story. The screenplay could have written itself and, at times, it seemingly does. The movie contains no surprises. The humor is at best fitfully amusing and, as is par for the course for many action-comedies, the action sequences generate no excitement while absorbing far too much of the running time.

The story postulates that Teddy (Hart), trying to give his wife, Ruth (Jasmine Matthews), the best birthday ever, arranges for them to spend the weekend at a romantic cabin getaway. But, on the big day, Teddy not only loses his job but gets the vacation address wrong. When he goes to check into the cabin, he is mistaken for a dreaded assassin/torturer known only as The Man from Toronto. Teddy successfully bluffs his way through his “assignment” but the real Man from Toronto (Harrelson) isn’t happy about having been impersonated. He eventually tracks down Teddy and the two form a partnership of convenience – The Man from Toronto so he can get his big payday (he’s actually a frustrated chef who wants to build a big enough nest egg to open his own restaurant) and Teddy so he can get back his “old,” boring life.

Both Teddy and TMfT undergo character transformations. Teddy starts out the film as a soft-hearted whiner who seemingly can’t do anything right but, by the end, he has become a soft-hearted whiner with a modicum of self-confidence. When we first meet TMfT, he’s a steely-eyed killer in the mold of Jason Statham or Bruce Willis. By the end, his heart of gold has been burnished. To emphasize his innate goodness, the film gives him a girlfriend (played by Kaley Cuoco in a part that’s the textbook definition of “thankless”). The villains are an unimpressive lot, including the aptly named Man from Miami, Man from Russia, Man from Tokyo, etc. Ellen Barkin shows up as the ringleader of all these geographically-monikered men.

The Man from Toronto ends with sufficient ambiguity to hint at a sequel without mandating or promising one. If the film had been released theatrically, as was the initial plan, it almost certainly would have been unsuccessful. Its ready accessibility on Netflix, however, lowers the stakes, allowing a mediocre film to find a wider audience, even if the enthusiasm level isn’t appreciably raised. The Man from Toronto is derivative and forgettable; nothing about the venue in which it is seen will change that.

Man from Toronto, The (United States, 2022)

Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Kaley Cuoco, Ellen Barkin, Jasmine Matthews
Screenplay: Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner
Cinematography: Rob Hardy
Music: Ramin Djawadi
U.S. Distributor: Netflix
Run Time: 1:50
U.S. Release Date: 2022-06-24
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity)
Genre: Action/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1