Sloppy execution kills a fun conceit in ‘The Man from Toronto’

In Netflix’s latest action movie, it doesn’t feel like anyone involved is that invested.

Netflix

By Aurora Amidon Published on June 26, 2022

Just when you thought you’d seen all the action-packed, hijinx-heavy love-hate buddy comedies the world could possibly generate, here comes The man from Toronto† Directed by Patrick Hughesthat hot enters from the Hitman’s bodyguard franchise (and you definitely notice it), the film follows Teddy (Kevin Heart), a charming but totally inept wannabe entrepreneur who can’t seem to take a break.

Teddy’s series of misadventures leads to an AirBnb confusion, which then leads a few dangerous men to mistake him for a brooding and notoriously nefarious hit man named Randy, or The Man from Toronto (Woody Harrelson† But instead of simply fixing the unlikely error (what fun would that be?), The man from Toronto takes us on a wild nearly two-hour drive full of dramatic irony and a need to suspend every ounce of disbelief you might be holding.

But when it comes down to it, ridiculous self-importance isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world. Indeed, where? The man from Toronto falls short is not in its improbable premise, but rather in its lackluster execution. There is an overwhelming sense of apathy present in the film, which is perhaps most evident in the performances.

In particular, the two leads have been largely endorsed. Hughes relies heavily on Hart’s usual high, frenetic comedy style (I’d be surprised if much of his role wasn’t improv). And while this clearly makes for a pretty unerring comedy (the film can be laughed at), it doesn’t give the impression that screenwriters Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner weren’t at all concerned with creating a new character, or even adding a new flavor to Hart’s existing persona. For example, Teddy’s entire personality revolves around his ridiculous entrepreneurial ideas. But while this aspect of his character is highlighted in the first act, it barely makes a comeback afterwards. This, in turn, makes it difficult to follow Teddy’s bow.

A similar problem arises with Randy, who is more or less a revised version of Harrelson’s erratic characters in films like Zombieland and The Edge of Seventeen† And while Randy has a bit more nuance to him than Teddy, (despite being a much sought-after hit man, he gets really nervous around women), Harrelson honestly seems, well… bored.

However, it’s not just the characters who feel undercooked. Especially in the third act The man from Toronto hands out plot point after plot point in a way that is not only exhausting, but also a bit confusing. When Teddy and Randy meet, the latter lets his bumbling, inadvertent copycat know to lead him on a quest to retrieve a powerful figure. And while the details of this heist aren’t very important, they’re explained so haphazardly that it’s hard to follow or remember.

The third act throws so much information at the viewer that it’s impossible to know what to cling to. There is the man from Miami, the man from Chicago, a deceitful boss, countless villains, a car called Deborah and much more. At some point it just feels like The man from Toronto a lot of people’s ideas rolled into one movie. They say too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, and it’s never been more true.

It also doesn’t help that the movie wasn’t shot in a unique or dynamic way. Most of the frames are tinged with a cool, flat color palette, and action sequences are framed by insane, lightning-fast editing, making a movie already whiplash-inducing with its content visually impossible to follow.

The only part that really matters The man from Toronto is his humor. Indeed, the skinny Teddy who feigns the demeanor of a hardened killer makes for plenty of laughter. In one scene, he accidentally cuts open someone’s eye while gesturing with a knife, then proceeds to throw up some macho men. And while puke humor often falls flat, it works here, as Hart masterfully strikes a balance between emphasizing the physical humor of it all, alongside his characters’ embarrassment about the gross thing he’s just done.

There are also multiple times when Teddy and Randy’s relationship is funny and the dynamics of Hughes’s attempt at buddy comedy actually reach. This emerges when Teddy expresses his gratitude to Randy for not terrifying him, or in Randy’s genuine frustration at the long-windedness of his new business partners.

Indeed, it is neither Hart nor Harrelson’s fault that they got a lazy script with guaranteed characters. For the most part, they do their best – even if their frustrations inevitably seep through at times. The two more than capable actors were simply caught up in another sad case of a rushed action movie that seriously lacks much-needed depth.

Related Topics: Kevin Hart, The Man from Toronto, Woody Harrelson

Aurora Amidon spends her days directing the Great Expectations section trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the greatest movies of all time. Read her most embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon