Director Patrick Hughes hit it big with 2017 movies The Hitman’s Bodyguardand he’s since doubled down on that hit’s model, first with his 2021 follow-up Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and now with The man from Toronto, another action-comedy that pairs black and white protagonists in a wild and violent misadventure involving professional assassins. In this case, that duo is Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson, who find themselves embroiled in deadly international espionage thanks to the kind of mistaken-identity mishap that would feel right at home in an episode of company of three. Factor in Hart’s usual little man schtick, and what you get is precisely the kind of second-rate big-studio feature (from, in this case, Sony) that’s now being unceremoniously sold to – and dumped on – Netflix. .
In a scenario reminiscent central intelligence, his 2016 team with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Hart is Teddy Jackson, a salesman for a local gym who constantly tries – and fails – to launch his own line of unique exercise equipment, be it Teddy Band (a resistance band that punches him in the face), Teddy Burn (a garbage bag-like tracksuit that causes him to pass out), or Teddy Bar (a pull-up bar that collapses when used). Online amateur videos of Teddy confirm he’s a failure, and that impression is reinforced when his wife Lori (Jasmine Mathews) informs him that his law firm’s term for shit is “Teddy’d.” Given that his boss also sees him as incompetent, Teddy turns out to be a quintessential Hart character: a whiny, wimpy loser without the confidence and tenacity to succeed. In other words, he’s a “wimp” who needs to learn how to be a man.
Hart’s big-screen comedies often revolve around these masculinity issues, and here they’re thrown into sharp relief by Teddy’s decision to wow Lori by taking her to a Virginia cabin and spa for her birthday. This plan goes haywire from the start, as Teddy fails to replenish the toner for his home printer and, as a result, cannot read the correct address of their lodge on his printout. Instead, the cabin he visits turns out to be populated by two menacing murderers overseeing the torture of a captive. These menacing individuals believe that Teddy is the man from Toronto, a notorious hitman whose reputation is so great that they can’t wait to see him work his gruesome magic. Teddy is of course horrified by this turn of events. Yet, fearing he will be killed if he doesn’t do what they expect of him, he fights his way to get the information they covet, in which case the FBI shows up and kills the bad guys and kidnaps Teddy.
The feds know Teddy is just a stranger, but since The Man from Toronto’s client, an ousted Venezuelan colonel, now believes Teddy is his mercenary, they enlist him to perpetuate this ruse long enough to foil a upcoming plan to blow up the Venezuelan Embassy. This whole plot, however, is so absurd a la MacGuffin, designed to take things from one absurd setting to another. Moreover, the details of the narrative are merely window dressing for Hart’s complaining and floundering man-child, as well as his contentious feuds with the real man from Toronto, played by Woody Harrelson as the menacing master of his homicidal profession. Toronto man has a kitchen full of guns and cash, fondness for 19eof American poetry from the last century, a sweet 1969 Dodge Charger, and an origin story involving his grandfather and a hungry bear (the latter being tattooed on his back), and he doesn’t appreciate Teddy impersonating for him – a situation that lands them in an unlikely partnership.
Toronto is gruff and assertive, Teddy is talkative and cowardly, and their banter is the only reason to The man from Toronto to exist. Unfortunately, Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner’s script doesn’t offer a single funny line, nor does Hart and Harrelson, even though the old riffs went in search of a choice tangent. The most notable of these features, Toronto, refers to John Keats with a male pronoun and Teddy responds with, “He can’t identify as he anymore. It’s about being gender neutral. Obviously you didn’t get the message. What is your offer? You don’t know who you’re offending… You owe a neutral apology right now. It’s unclear if this is the star’s attempt to atone for his past homophobic jokes (his refusal to apologize for them got him kicked out of his 2019 Oscars hosting gig), or a scolding those who censored it, but it’s about as leaden as the rest of the material, which never gets past the central idea that Toronto is helping Teddy become more macho, and Teddy is teaching Toronto to soften up .
“Unfortunately, Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner’s script doesn’t offer a single funny line, nor does Hart and Harrelson, even though the old riffs went in search of a choice tangent.”
There are a few subplots scattered all over The man from Toronto, including Lori taken in by a hunky FBI handler while her husband is away on world-saving business (much to Teddy’s annoyance), and Lori’s friend Anne (Kaley Cuoco) has an instant crush. for Toronto. It’s hard to imagine why Cuoco would accept a thankless supporting role in a mundane matter like this, but then it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to be part of this hackneyed programmer. Ellen Barkin sporadically appears as Toronto’s mysterious and dastardly manager, and Toronto and Teddy are forced to face a rival assassin – Pierson Fode’s The Man from Miami – while simultaneously developing a bond that benefits them both. Yet while these things happen, they are of no consequence, leaving the impression that the film will be better suited to sleepy Sunday afternoon viewings, when one can doze off during parts of the proceedings and not miss a thing. .
Resting a project like this on the shoulders of two beloved headliners is, in itself, a reasonable strategy. Hughes, however, isn’t adept at staging rat-a-tat-tat comic exchanges or CGI-enhanced mayhem, and both of those shortcomings are evident in The man from Toronto, whose spirit is DOA and whose action is both painstakingly orchestrated and completely devoid of novelty. It’s not so much offensive as it is numbing – a photocopy of a photocopy of legions of the best films.