The Man from Toronto film review: Kevin Hart’s new Netflix action comedy is an assault on the senses

In India they say that every film has its destiny. This is usually used as an excuse to “explain” flops. When a movie is a hit, they throw hit parties. For example, had The Man from Toronto been filmed in India, they would have said it was destined to be denied a theatrical release and be outsourced for streaming. And you know what? It would have made perfect sense. Because although The Man from Toronto was born as a star-driven Sony film, it has all the makings of it a Netflix stinker.

Visually flat, shockingly unfunny, and so algorithmic in its approach to storytelling that it’s almost dystopian, The Man from Toronto is exactly the kind of committee-driven comedy that gives Netflix the green light for SEO purposes more than anything else. It’s almost as if the streamer wants the right to show half a dozen results if you type “Kevin Hart” into the search bar. Can you imagine Netflix’s delight in getting a finished Hart vehicle?

Although calling The Man from Toronto a “complete movie” feels a bit of an exaggeration. It’s almost as if Netflix bought the raw footage that director Patrick Hughes reluctantly shot in a rushed week and then forgot to edit it into a proper film. The result is a disjointed, dispassionate “comedy” that marks a career low for everyone involved. And Hart, before you forget it, has acted in two Ride Along movies.

He brings the same manic energy here, as if trying to overcompensate for the film’s complete lack of personality or laughter. Hart plays the good-natured but pesky family man Teddy, who after a mix-up in an Airbnb is mistaken for the world’s deadliest assassin, the titular Toronto man played by Woody Harrelson in such a telephonic performance that it makes the apology video of Johnny Depp-Amber Heard for the Australian Government appears to have been an honest Oscar offer.

I understand the role was originally intended to be played by Jason Statham, but he dropped out just a few weeks before filming began because he wanted the film to be rated R and the studio wouldn’t budge. The lack of gore and cursing is clearly noticeable – after all, this is a film that, due to its nature as a hitman-buddy comedy, calls for numerous on-screen deaths and raunchy humor. But Hart and Harrelson don’t even team up until 45 minutes have passed.

That means they’ll have to twiddle their thumbs in separate storylines for nearly half the length of this film that’s little more sophisticated than rejected Saturday Night Live sketches. And it’s not as if the quality improves the moment they join forces – The Man from Toronto involves all forms of coincidence, invention and casual disregard for logic. For example, Kaley Cuoco makes an apparent cameo appearance midway through the film (since no one had previously mentioned her character), but then just stays there, essentially morphing into a supporting presence that the film didn’t even bother to do had to imagine until it was good in act two.

Cuoco’s character is just one of the many aspects of this film that seem like an afterthought. Just like the sudden move to play Hart and Harrelson’s odd energy as genuine friendship. At no point did they seem to like each other, and I know it’s an unwritten law for buddy comedy to dial in the bromance towards the end, but at least get an emotional foundation for it beforehand? Is that too much?

For one thing, Hart and Harrelson’s chemistry makes everything Anne Hathaway and James Franco had at the 2009 Academy Awards look like Bogey and Bacall in their prime. Heck, Mark Wahlberg had better chemistry with a CGI teddy bear than what Teddy and the Toronto man can muster in this movie. Even more problematic, however, is that the film, in its rush to bring both male characters together, invents a scenario where Teddy’s wife can be removed from the plot. Her only job – and I’m not exaggerating – is literally being a baby machine. The movie starts with Teddy and she (but mostly Teddy) planning to get her pregnant – that’s why they went to this Airbnb – and it ends with Teddy’s wife finally getting pregnant. Well done.

Hughes’ career never lived up to the potential of his debut film, the dark Australian neo-western Red Hill. Since then he has only made unforgettable action comedies. But The Man from Toronto is even worse than his two Hitman’s Bodyguard films. It’s really confusing because it was edited by Borat’s Craig Alpert, shot by Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s Rob Hardy, and voiced by Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi. Mortgages were clearly paid.

Ideally, The Man from Toronto would have fled after a half-hearted theatrical release last year. But because of Netflix Hungry to build up his library, millions of bored 40 year olds will try this weekend. Statham dodged a bullet with it. You should too.

The man from Toronto
director – Patrick Hughes
Pour – Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Ellen Barkin, Jasmine Matthews, Kaley Cuoco
valuation – 1/5

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