The man from Toronto
Rating: PG; 110 minutes
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Written by Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner
With Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson and Ellen Barkin
Streaming on Netflix from June 24
It’s easier to discuss the new Netflix movie The man from Toronto by first describing what it is not. As in: This is not a remake of the forgotten 1933 British romantic comedy, also called The man from Toronto, which follows the opposite-attractive couple of an Englishwoman and a Canadian. The new movie isn’t a Netflix movie either, not really – it was produced by Sony Pictures with the intention of playing in theaters, until the studio sold the title to the streaming giant rather than to roll the dice with a wary public in the face of the pandemic. But above all, 2022 The man from Toronto doesn’t feature Toronto that much. Not intentionally, anyway.
A prodigiously boring action-comedy, devoid of both thrill and humor, The man from Toronto features Kevin Hart at his best, playing a fast-talking beta guy named Teddy, who is failing in both his “contactless boxing gym” business and his marriage. While planning a romantic weekend getaway, Teddy accidentally arrives in the wrong cabin and is mistaken for “The Man from Toronto”, the code name of a mysterious, highly skilled assassin feared around the world. . To make a very long and tedious setup fortunately short, Teddy now has to impersonate TMFT at the request of the FBI, a ploy that lands him directly in the hands of the real Canadian-born killer (played by Woody Harrelson). Supposedly entertaining and violent high jinks supposedly follow, but never actually happen.
And that CanCon bait? There is a brief stock footage of the Toronto skyline during a scene in which TMFT heads towards their secret base. But otherwise, the city is just a rhetorical gag, with much of the story taking place in Washington, Virginia and Miami. Except that, in a perverse twist of scouting fate, Toronto itself is being used to double-cross all of these locations, thanks to the city proving to be a friendlier hub for production during the height of the pandemic, when filming started. To recap: this is a movie about a man from Toronto, not set in Toronto, but shot entirely in Toronto.
But that’s okay, really: This stupid upside-down concept is in total alignment with the film’s ultimate ambitions, or lack thereof.
Directed/hacked by Patrick Hughes, the film represents the nadir of the once-reliable buddy/action-comedy genre, whose descent into the eighth layer of Hollywood Hell was launched by Hughes’ viciously gruesome filmography: The Expendables 3, The Hitman’s Bodyguardand the execrable of last year The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife. There is a naïve, deadly drudgery in Hughes’ work that is a horrifying wonder to behold. The humor is bland. Combat is sloppy when it’s not inconsistent. And the characters are barely-designed annoyances concocted with Mad Lib-sponsored Final Draft malware. You feel for Harrelson, who stepped in at the last minute after Jason Statham pulled out, perhaps realizing he never tried to speak in an accent other than his own… or maybe just after throwing a look at the script.
If there’s a hallmark of Hughes’ Cinema, it’s the recurring shtick of characters unexpectedly getting mowed down by speeding vehicles and coming out unscathed – a gag used here to mind-numbing effect.
There may be exciting chatter about The man from TorontoThe setting for the film’s ending, a lengthy “one-shot” brawl between Harrelson and a list of unnamed rivals. But Hughes completely misunderstands the alleged power of the overused camera trick, detaching any possible thrill from emotional or grassroots narrative stakes. Really, it’s the follow-up to that scene, a no-frills showdown in a building called “Hughes Food Processing,” that reveals the filmmaker’s guiding philosophy: Grind ’em out, cheap and quick.
Welcome to Hogtown, folks.
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