The Man from Toronto  Review: A Hart-Harrelson Show all the way
Netflix’s churn of movies on a daily basis is astonishing. This pattern is becoming problematic with every passing week. A digital epidemic, even. But every now and then, some of these films can be enjoyable. ‘The Man From Toronto’ is certainly good fun while its charm lasts. Well, by “its” I mean Kevin Hart. The comic is quickly becoming an every-movie man, proving his mettle with solid dramatic performances like The Upside and Fatherhood. Man is becoming a funnier version of Ryan Reynolds. And this film certainly needs more of that funnier Hart. Because other than that and some cleverly choreographed action scenes, ‘The Man from Toronto’ is mostly empty.
Being at the wrong place at the wrong time could not have gone worse for Teddy Jackson. An everyday hustler, Teddy’s spirit to be never disappointed is a worthy cure for today’s Gen Z. He’s no snowflake and seldom gets flustered by his failures. But his failures get him nowhere, and that is the problem. His wife, Lori, is probably no match for him. Not in a good way for Teddy at all. She is promised a special birthday from TJ. Bust like most things he usually does in life, he almost “Teddys” it. The FBI has to intervene and save the day. They do want something in return. No, it is not a free lesson for TJ’s “no-contact boxing gym” class. They want him to pose as The Man from Toronto (Woody Harrelson), a hardened hitman with a reputation as pristine as Bali beaches. They want to avert Colonel Marin overthrowing the Venezuelan government and potentially stop a big-scaled war.
Related to The Man from Toronto –Hustle  Netflix Review: A Winning Underdog Story Elevated By Adam Sandler’s Charming Central Play
The first impressions of TMFT stylize him as a taciturn, quiet John Ford-type. The no-nonsense killer, though, is a softie at heart, as we see later on. Both TJ and TMFT are not original in any sense. These characters are composites of many cinematic experiments before the stereotype got perfect. They make for good fun on the screen because of how well they complement each other. Hart’s character is significantly dumbed down to make him more endearing to the audience. His goofiness is well-matched by the awkward tone that director Patrick Hughes goes for with the physical parts. But what Hart does well is not to make TJ a caricature. He lends him a good heart and fine-tuned direction. With all these focus groups and research experience, these companies have, such decisions are mostly dictated by industrial algorithms.
Jason Statham was originally slated to play the hitman but dropped out due to differences in how the story should play out. Harrelson is limited in how he can bring the character to life. I do not know about his process but it seems to be well influenced by precedent. The Minnesota incident is something that is reproduced in various forms by different filmmakers to play this “hard on the outside, soft on the inside” trope. That does not really give Hughes too much to play coy with. As a viewer, it is tough not to see ahead in a movie. Remaining in the moment – the present – is a similar challenge, as in real life. Whether you are successful or not changes as a function of how skilled the storyteller is at keeping you engaged. It is not entirely up to you. With something so predictable like ‘The Man from Toronto’, Hughes comes up way short. So do the writers. The dialogue is mostly digestible but unlike something that will make you stand up and take notice.
It is present as the bare minimum to technically complete a movie scene that is not a silent movie. Hart and Harrelson together do make an impact to change its course. ‘The Man from Toronto’ is a decent one-time watch. The leading men are well-worth your time if you like expressive comedy. The laughs are the only thing keeping you from pressing escape and switching to something else. Other than that, not a great deal to see here.