In India, they say that every film has its destiny. This is usually used as an excuse to ‘explain’ flops; when a movie is a hit, they throw success parties. Had The Man from Toronto been made in India, for instance, they’d have said that it was in its destiny to be denied a theatrical release and be offloaded to streaming. And you know what? It would’ve made complete sense. Because even though The Man from Toronto originated as a star-driven Sony picture, it has all the makings of to Netflix stinker.
Visually flat, distressingly unfunny, and so algorithmic in its approach to storytelling that it’s almost dystopian, The Man from Toronto is exactly the kind of committee-driven comedy that Netflix greenlights for SEO purposes more than anything else. It’s almost as if the streamer wants to have the bragging rights of being able to throw up half a dozen results when you type ‘Kevin Hart’ in the search bar. So, can you imagine Netflix’s delight at being handed a readymade Hart vehicle?
Although calling The Man from Toronto a ‘readymade film’ feels like a bit of a stretch. It’s almost as if Netflix purchased the raw footage that director Patrick Hughes had begrudgingly shot over a rushed week, and then forgot to edit it into a proper movie. The result is a disjointed, dispassionate ‘comedy’ that marks a career low for everyone involved. And Hart, before you forget, has starred in two Ride Along movies.
He brings the same manic energy here, as if to overcompensate for the film’s utter lack of personality or laughs. Hart plays the good-natured but grating family man Teddy, who after a mix-up at an Airbnb is mistaken for the world’s deadliest assassin, the titular Man from Toronto, played by Woody Harrelson in a performance so phoned-in, it makes that Johnny Depp-Amber Heard apology video for the Australian government seemed like it was an honest Oscar bid.
I understand that the role was originally supposed to be played by Jason Statham, but he dropped out mere weeks before filming because he wanted the film to be rated R, and the studio wouldn’t budge. Clearly, the lack of blood and swearing is noticeable—this is, after all, a movie that because of its very nature as a hitman buddy comedy calls for numerous on-screen deaths and raunchy humor. But Hart and Harrelson don’t even team up until 45 minutes have passed.
Which means that for nearly half the length of this film, they’re left to twiddle their thumbs in separate storylines, which are barely more refined than rejected Saturday Night Live sketches. And it’s not like the quality improves the minute they band together—The Man from Toronto involves all forms of coincidences, contrivances, and casual disregard for logic. For example, Kaley Cuoco pops up midway through the film in an apparent cameo (since nobody had mentioned her character before), but then just sticks around, essentially turning into a supporting presence that the movie hadn’t even bothered introducing until it was well into act two.
Cuoco’s character is just one of the many aspects about this movie that seems like an afterthought. Just like the sudden move to play Hart and Harrelson’s odd-couple energy as a genuine friendship. At no point did it seem like they liked each other, and I know that it is an unwritten law for buddy comedies to dial up the bromance towards the end, but at least lay some emotional groundwork for it first? Is that too much to ask?
For one thing, Hart and Harrelson’s chemistry makes whatever Anne Hathaway and James Franco had going at the 2009 Academy Awards look like Bogey and Bacall at their prime. Heck, Mark Wahlberg had better chemistry with a CGI teddy bear than what Teddy and the Man from Toronto can muster in this film. More problematically, however, in its hurry to bring both male characters together, the movie contrives a scenario in which Teddy’s wife can be removed from the plot. Literally her de ella only job de ella—and I’m not exaggerating—is to be a baby-making machine. The movie opens with Teddy and her de ella (but mostly Teddy de ella) planning on getting her pregnant—this was why they were going to that Airbnb—and it ends with Teddy’s wife finally having conceived de ella. Great job.
Hughes’ career never lived up to the potential of his debut feature, the gritty Australian Neo-Western Red Hill. He’s since made only forgettable action comedies. But The Man from Toronto is even worse than his two Hitman’s Bodyguard films. It’s baffling really, because its edited by Borat’s Craig Alpert, shot by Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s Rob Hardy, and scored by Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi. Mortgages were clearly paid.
Ideally, The Man from Toronto would’ve tanked after getting a half-hearted theatrical release last year. But because of Netflix’s hunger to build its library, millions of bored 40-somethings will give it a shot this weekend. Statham dodged a bullet with this one. So should you.
The Man from Toronto
Director – Patrick Hughes
casting – Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Ellen Barkin, Jasmine Matthews, Kaley Cuoco
Rating – 1/5