Apparently The Man From Toronto, which was in production around the start of 2020, became a victim of Covid as Sony Pictures moved it around the release schedule before finally giving up and handing it off to Netflix in a deal earlier this year. So let’s see here: You have an action comedy with Kevin Hart in his sweet spot, teaming him opposite Woody Harrelson and featuring Kaley Cuoco in a supporting role, with a director and writers who have had great success in the genre working behind the scenes. Sounds like a recipe for a summer box office hit, right?
Apparently Sony didn’t think so and unloaded it on Netflix, which starts streaming it Friday (reviews were embargoed until 9 p.m. ET Thursday) without the kind of fanfare a star-driven commercial film might ordinarily receive. And at least from what I can tell, there doesn’t appear to be much of a theatrical attempt at all.
Maybe what seemed like a sure thing just got old fast. There is a lot of déjà vu feeling to this film; Abbott and Costello made a whole career out of this kind of thing. Once again Hart is the bumbling one, this time playing a not too successful sales consultant named Teddy with one big idea: an online gym accompanied by a box of lame workout items he is desperately trying to hawk. In fact, the movie opens with what looks like an improvised, not terribly funny bit by Hart trying to sell the concept. He is trying to do right by wife Ruth (a wasted Jasmine Mathews), but nothing goes right for this guy, especially when he knocks on the wrong door for a sales call that turns out to be a criminal operation where bad guys are torturing a poor fellow who is hanging from the ceiling and about to get whacked unless he spills the beans.
When Teddy arrives he is instantly mistaken for the mysterious but notoriously successful hitman known as The Man from Toronto. After trying to deny he’s the guy, Teddy realizes the only way out is to go along, so he turns on his best tough guy in order to avoid having to slice and dice this fellow up in Toronto’s signature grisly manner.
When the FBI raids the place Teddy survives, but because they really want the actual man from Toronto as a key to a case they are on, the agents enlist Teddy to continue playing The Man From Toronto (aka Randy) so they can trap the real brains behind the operation — that includes a woman who seems to be the only known contact for Toronto, essentially his pimp for big hit jobs. She is played by the criminally unused Ellen Barkin, who needs a new agent. Of course, it doesn’t take long for the real Toronto (Harrelson) to find out there is an imposter taking his business away and he nabs Teddy, setting up a familiar kind of mismatched buddy movie as this odd couple discover they actually need each other. High jinks, chases and explosions commence as Teddy gets the kind of workout his online gym could only dream of, and Hart gets to play his usual befuddled everyday guy caught up in a situation careening out of control.
The teaming of Hart of Harrelson (who mainly plays it straight as a very imposing hitman) is a good enough idea, but it is mainly one-sided as the Toronto character gets a lot sillier as this nearly two-hour opus rolls along and other bad guys like The Man From Miami (Pierson Fode), The Men From Tacoma (a brother act) and The Man From Tokyo enter the fray. Meanwhile, Teddy only cooperates if the FBI guarantees they will pay off his credit cards and debts, and allow him to be there for Ruth’s birthday. Instead, they convince him to let them send a good-looking agent to take care of her birthday needs, a side bit that adds up to zero. She also invites BFF Maggie to join her and that is where Cuoco, who deserves a better screen role than this one, comes in. She at least lends a spark to the proceedings with her droll one-liners, but when she ridiculously gets hooked up with Harrelson’s Toronto character it all goes south — pretty much like the movie itself despite the best efforts of Hart in a role that at this point he could probably do in his sleep. His fans won’t mind, but you hope for something, anything that really captures the real talent within.
The director keeps it moving, but Patrick Hughes has been down this rabbit hole before having steered both The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard –– apparently he has a thing for hit men. The script is credited to Robbie Fox and Chris Bremmer, with Jason Blumenthal helping out on story. Producers are Todd Black, Steve Tisch and Blumenthal.
Check out my video review above with scenes from the film. Do you plan to see The Man From Toronto? Let us know what you think.