The Man From Toronto Review

The Man From Toronto premieres June 24 exclusively on Netflix.

Director Patrick Hughes continues to expand his hitman-centric oeuvre, continuing his The Hitman’s Bodyguard movies with Netflix’s The Man from Toronto. Woody Harrelson is the deadly hitman and Kevin Hart is a small-town dope who accidentally creates a storyline that confuses him as an assassin. Forced to share space, the two go from enemies to somewhat allies in a wacky adventure that offers a few laughs and some creative action sequences. It never quite hits the heights of other movies in this genre, like Midnight Run or The Rundown, but it’s a fun summer watch.

Beginning with a strong prologue, Teddy Jackson (Hart) speaks to the camera, making videos for his non-existent fitness followers as he tries to sell his signature workout techniques like Teddy Burn, Teddy Bar and Teddy Bands, who all hurt. Meanwhile, in Utah, a solitary figure passing through Toronto (Harrelson) dressed in black arrives at a cabin to conduct an interrogation for hire. He puts down his knives and tells the terrified guy tied to a chair the dark story of how he saw his grandfather being snagged by a bear and what he learned from it. His mark spills the beans before Harrelson even has to shed his blood and it does establish the skill disparities between Teddy and the Toronto man.

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Since Teddy is a mess professionally and personally, he wants to at least 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 day at the spa to set up the rental, but realizes he can’t quite read the address on her printout because he hasn’t changed the printer toner, so he fights his way into the wrong booth which is actually the setting for the Toronto Man’s next interrogation. The mistaken identity sets the stage for a huge mistake that involves the FBI needing Teddy to act like he’s in Toronto to help stop an international incident. Meanwhile, the real killer is pissed at losing a high-paying gig, through no fault of his own, and seeks to acquire Teddy so he can finish the job well and get the payday. What ensues is that Teddy and Toronto have to help each other so Teddy can go home with his wife and Toronto can get his last big paycheck and get out of the business.

On a comedic level, the film gives audiences who appreciate Hart everything they love about the comedian. There are the self-deprecating jokes about size, the quick-witted, quick-witted rants and 10 out of 10 reactions to his impending bodily harm. Hughes also gives Hart plenty of real estate to work his way through several interrogation scenes that elicit big laughs, and even dry heaves due to Teddy’s reaction to actual violence. These storylines get a little repetitive in the middle of the movie and could have used some surgical editing to pick up the pace, which drags.

On the other hand, it’s nice to see Harrelson back in a pure action role where he can do a lot of physical combat which he sells with enthusiasm and agility. He’s also a big straight for Hart’s antics. There’s still a glint of amusement in his eyes as his character tolerates the inadequacies that make up Teddy, which helps melt the ice between the two men by the second act. As the two quasi-bond on the long-standing fears that drive them, the testosterone-heavy film turns into smoothness and character work, which lends some depth to the madness that surrounds them.

All in all, it’s a showcase for Hart and Harrelson, so the supporting actors and women don’t have much to do. Ellen Barkin gives a typically spitfire performance as Toronto’s manager as he grows increasingly bored as the mission unfolds. But her character is a footnote in terms of her relationship with Toronto and her eventual trajectory. Mathews suffers well as Teddy’s wife, but she essentially only reacts to his idiocy with compassion. And then Kaley Cuoco appears in a cameo as Lori’s friend — and to flirt with Toronto. Hers is a role that feels like most of it must have ended up on the cutting room floor, as she has far too big a name and comedic talent to be relegated to such a small role. However, Pierson Fode does a lot with what little he gave as The Man from Miami, a competitive assassin with a sadistic streak and Terminator courage.

The Toronto man follows the pattern of other better opposites, but it’s still entertaining.

All of Teddy’s mess ends with an action sequence that leaves Teddy and Toronto using every trick in the book to survive. Hughes gets really creative with his use of handheld cameras and Steadicams to capture the scrum in big chunks that put Hart and Harrelson to the test. From room to room, it’s a cacophony of weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, and everyday props that create dizzying moments of choreography and destruction. In reality, Hart’s Teddy would be smashed into 10 pieces after the first time he was thrown against a wall. But that’s where the suspension of disbelief comes in handy because there’s a lot of humor watching the way the little guy is manhandled like he’s in a live Looney Tunes cartoon.

The Toronto Man ends on an orderly note, with a real, closed conclusion, which is nice to see and seems rare these days. Sure, there aren’t many consequences for the unholy mayhem they create, but the logic and consequences are for other movies. For this one, it’s fine to just eat your microwave popcorn and have some summertime fun right from your couch for sure.

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