Review of the man from Toronto

The Man from Toronto premieres exclusively on Netflix on June 24.

Director Patrick Hughes continues to expand his assassin-focused body of work, following his… The Hitman’s Bodyguard movies with Netflix’s The Man from Toronto. Woody Harrelson is the deadly hit man and Kevin Hart is a small-town dope who accidentally creates a scenario that leaves him confused as the killer. Forced to share space, the two go from enemies to somewhat allies in a farcical adventure that offers some laughs and some creative action sequences. It never reaches the heights of other movies in this genre like Midnight Run or The Rundown, but it’s a fun summer watch.

Starting with a strong prologue, Teddy Jackson (Hart) talks into the camera and makes videos for his nonexistent fitness followers as he tries to sell his signature training techniques like Teddy Burn, Teddy Bar and Teddy Bands, all of which hurt him. At the same time, in Utah, a lone figure dressed in black is passing through Toronto (Harrelson) at a cabin to conduct a rent interrogation. He puts down his knives and tells the terrified man, tied to a chair, the bleak story of seeing his grandfather filleted by a bear and what he learned from it. His stamp spills the beans before Harrelson even has to shed his blood and that makes for a nice competency disparity between Teddy and the man from Toronto.

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Being a mess both professionally and personally, Teddy wants at least to make his wife Lori’s (Jasmine Mathews) birthday a success, so he rents a cabin in Virginia to give her a special weekend. He drops her off for a spa day to arrange the rent, but realizes he can’t quite read the address on his printout because he hasn’t replaced the printer toner, so he stumbles into the wrong cabin which is actually the setting for the man Toronto’s next interrogation. The mistaken identity sets the stage for a huge blunder where the FBI needs Teddy to pretend to be Toronto to help stop an international incident. Meanwhile, the real-life hit man is angry that he lost a high-paying job through no fault of his own and tries to take over Teddy so he can finish the job well and get the payday. What follows is that Teddy and Toronto must help each other so that Teddy can go home to his wife and Toronto can get his last big payday and get out of the company.

Comically speaking, the film gives viewers who appreciate Hart everything they love about the comedian. There are the self-deprecating jokes about height, the nervous, quick rants, and 10 out of 10 reactions to his impending bodily harm. Hughes also gives Hart a lot of real estate to work his way through several interrogation scenes that get a lot of laughs, and even some dry heaving because of Teddy’s reaction to real-life violence. Those screenplays get a bit repetitive halfway through the movie and could have used some surgical editing to ramp up the pace, which does drag.

On the other hand, it’s nice to see Harrelson back in a pure action role where he gets to do a lot of physical combat which he sells with enthusiasm and agility. He’s also a great straight in Hart’s antics. There is always a glimmer of fun in his eyes as his character tolerates Teddy’s shortcomings, which helps melt the ice between the two men on the second act. While the two are quasi-bonding over the long-held fears that motivate them, the testosterone-heavy film can switch back to some softness and character work, giving a bit of depth to the madness going on around them.

Overall, this is a showcase for Hart and Harrelson, so the supporting cast and the women don’t get much to do. Ellen Barkin gives a typically feisty performance as Toronto’s handler, growing increasingly irritable as the mission progresses. But her character is one note in terms of her relationship with Toronto and her eventual trajectory. Mathews does the long-suffering well as Teddy’s wife, but she basically only reacts to his idiocy with compassion. And then Kaley Cuoco appears in a cameo as Lori’s boyfriend – and to flirt with Toronto. Her role feels like most of it must have ended up on the cutting floor, as she’s far too big a name and a comedic talent to be relegated to such a small role. However, Pierson Fode does a lot with what little he gets as The Man from Miami, a competitive assassin with a sadistic streak and the Terminator’s fortitude.

The Man from Toronto follows the blueprint of other better opposites, but it’s still entertaining.

All of Teddy’s mess culminates in an action sequence where Teddy and Toronto use every trick in the book to survive. Hughes gets really creative with his use of handheld and Steadicams to capture the big chunk melee that puts Hart and Harrelson to the test. From room to room, it’s a cacophony of weapons, hand-to-hand combat and everyday props that create dizzying moments of choreography and destruction. In reality, Hart’s Teddy would be broken into 10 pieces after being slammed into a wall for the first time. But that’s where suspension of disbelief comes in, as there’s a lot of humor in watching the little guy get mistreated like he’s in a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon.

The Man from Toronto ends on a neat note, with a factual, closed conclusion, which is nice to watch and feels like a rarity these days. Sure, there aren’t many consequences for the unholy havoc they cause, but logic and consequences are for other movies. For this one, it’s fine to just eat your microwave popcorn and experience some mindless summer blockbusters from your couch.

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