Like many Torontonians, I felt a huge jolt of pride when I found out that a movie called “The Man From Toronto” was airing on Netflix. After all, it’s rare for a movie with “Toronto” in the title to be released on a major streaming service, so I went crazy thinking of the plot possibilities.
Would it be about a hockey player trying to save the city – and its precious ice – from an angry cabal of eco-terrorists determined to accelerate global warming? Or maybe a rom-com about a woman in love in her twenties who, after years of searching, finally meets a smart and charming U of T graduate, only to find that he was totally exaggerating on his Bumble profile.
The answer? No and no. A quick Google revealed that “The Man From Toronto” was actually an action comedy starring Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson. Hart plays Teddy Jackson, a hapless gym worker desperately trying to start his own fitness business, and Harrelson plays the titular Toronto man, a cold-blooded mercenary gifted at information extraction (i.e. torturing people until they tell him things). They unexpectedly cross paths at an Airbnb and, due to an identity swap, team up to fight the bad guys and save the world.
Here’s the thing: The film is mainly set in the United States, which is definitely not Toronto, as the title suggests. It made me wonder, How Toronto is “The man from Toronto”? So I watched the movie and came up with a super-scientific methodology, measuring Toronto-ness across different categories: locations, the Toronto man, and miscellaneous. Each would be measured on a specialized scale of 10. Quick, let’s get to it.
The film is set in a variety of locations, anywhere from Toronto to Virginia to Miami to Puerto Rico to Washington, DC. But understand this, a big part of the movie was filmed in the GTA, giving it some serious Toronto energy.
At the beginning of the film, when the Toronto man (Harrelson) comes home from a ‘business trip’, there is a glorious shot of the cityscape, gloomy clouds overhead, and the CN Tower towering proudly. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen downtown Toronto featured prominently, even proudly in a major movie. Seeing her on screen was both shocking and glorious.
We also meet Teddy Jackson (Hart), who lives in Yorktown, Virginia, a sleepy coastal town with a modest population. But it’s all movie magic. Yorktown is actually Milton, west of us on Highway 401, once the fastest growing town in all of Canada. Main Street features prominently in the film, the site of chases and gunfights. The clock tower is also getting a lot of facetime.
Later in the film, the streets of Washington DC are very similar to the intersection at College and University, at the foot of Queen’s Park. In another scene, set at night, if you squeeze extra hard, you can see Momofuku in the background as an ambulance hurtles north across the university.
Verdict: With all its filming locations in Toronto, “The Man From Toronto” might as well have been set in Toronto. Rating: 9 CN Towers out of 10
THE MAN FROM TORONTO, THE CHARACTER
Harrelson, who is very much from Texas, is our man from Toronto. When we first meet his character, he’s driving a Dodge Charger through the arid Utah landscape, wearing a cowboy hat and all-black outfit. His accent is, er, Woody Harrelson, flat and nasal with a hint of Southern twang. He doesn’t appear to be a Toronto man, at least at first glance.
And from there it gets worse, especially when Woody utters the word “Toronto” and commits the cardinal sin of pronouncing the second “t” clearly. This is a blatant mistake. In fact, every character in the movie forgets to drop the second “t”. Has anyone involved in this production seen that scene in “Argo”? You know, the one where Ben Affleck teaches the American hostages hiding in the Canadian embassy to pronounce it Toronno instead of TorontO. It’s a clear giveaway. Come on!
But let’s not jump to conclusions. We need to take a closer look at Harrelson’s character to properly assess his Toronto bona fides. The Toronto man lives outside of downtown, probably on the east side, in a converted room at the back of an abandoned warehouse. The interior of his house is Scandi chic, with polished white wood throughout. Basically, his converted place is the quintessential yuppie hideaway, impossibly expensive and modern in a run-down area, something Toronto Life would put on the cover.
There’s also this: When the Toronto man finishes renting a gun, he dreams of a career swap and opening his own restaurant. Is there anything more Toronto than that??? He also has a few tattoos. (Spoiler alert: At the end of the film, when he opens his own restaurant, the man calls it “Toronto’s,” which gives the film an extra local feel.)
Verdict: Harrelson may not look or talk like someone from Toronto, but his living quarters and life aspirations seem to fit the archetype. Rating: 6 Matty Mathesons out of 10
The word “Toronto” is said 29 times in the film, including the credits. (Did I count that? Yes. Is it important journalistic work? Obviously.) All that grammatical case is excellent PR for the city of Toronto. It’s like Tourism Toronto and Netflix had a marketing baby, except it didn’t cost us anything, which is great. Ideally, audiences around the world hear the word “Toronto” so often that they unknowingly book a trip here and spend their savings on Ripley’s Aquarium.
At one point in the film, there is an unnecessary close-up of the bumper of the man from Toronto’s Dodge Charger, which shows an Ontario license plate. Yes, with the signature blue font, a small crown and “Yours to Discover” on it. However, the board is missing one crucial detail: a sticker. Did Woody forget to renew it? Doesn’t he know that Doug Ford recently made it free? How could the film’s production crew forget a detail so vital to the details of life in contemporary Ontario?
And finally, in a scene filmed in Milton, Ontario parking signs are prominently displayed on the sidewalk: the “P” for “parking” circled on a rectangular slat, atop a metal post. The sight may offer viewers a welcome reminder of home or a bout of PTSD by remembering their unpaid tickets. It all depends on their relationship with the parking attendant in their neighborhood.
Verdict: Elements of Toronto, big and small, are common in the film, making the viewer feel as if it could have been set in their backyard. Rating: 7 Drakes out of 10