'The Man From Toronto' review: Kevin Hart tries hustling his way through tepid action comedy
Courtesy of Netflix
Kevin Hart and Woody Harrleson find themselves pitted against each other in Patrick Hughes dumped-on-Netflix actioner “The Man From Toronto,” a movie in which both actors mispronounce the Canadian city for the entire two hour runtime. A riff on the “Rush Hour” and “John Wick” formula, “The Man From Toronto,” originally intended for a theatrical release, isn’t the worst thing someone could throw on while deciding what to watch during movie night, if only because Hart pours his entire being into a flavorless, cliche-riddled screenplay where his occasional mannerisms and one-liners break through the mold. That’s not to say “The Man From Toronto” is good, but there’s layers of potential where it’s obvious the filmmakers wanted to reach for the more gruesome, eye-gouging R rating and instead “Toronto” feels like a watered down PG13 retread with laughable green screen graphics.
Some of the potential is baked into the idea of an underground syndicate of hitmen from various cities: (“The man from Miami, Moscow, etc.”) who can be activated with a simple text and then relentlessly unleash hell on their target. It’s an unrealized plot device that arrives with little skin left in the game, but at least the final showdown-a spiraling one shot inside a small weight room-brings some spark, reminding us Hughes, with his feet held to the fire, can direct lively sequences though you can’t help and wonder, where that energy was for the prior 90-minutes.
Hart plays Teddy, a struggling fitness inventor trying to make ends meet by convincing people no-contact boxing actually exists. His wife (Jasmine Matthews) still appreciates him, and in an effort to spur the couple’s intentions of having a child, Teddy books a romantic getaway only to stumble into the wrong rental (blame the low ink toner) and gets mistaken as the Man From Toronto. Naturally, as all these movies dictate, Teddy gets enlisted by the FBI to embrace his identity crisis and infiltrate some unnamed bad-guys inner circle and gather intel. What are the villains’ intentions and why? Chris Bremner and Robbie Fox’s screenplay doesn’t seem to have the answers.
This lays the foundation for the real Man from Toronto (Harrleson) to waltz into the picture and play the straight man opposite Hart who’s only decibel level is squeal. There’s the occasional moment where the two heavyweights spar, but the chemistry never seems authentic. Hughes, best known for blessing the word with two “Hitman Bodyguard” films and, uh, “The Expendables 3,” keeps the action light and moving, suggesting he’s got the bravado to deliver something above this C-grade snooze-fest. Sadly, his “The Man From Toronto” doesn’t have believable stakes and even weirder subplots, like one involving Hart’s wife who disappears for the whole movie only to arrive when it's absolutely convenient and Kaley Cuoco has approximately five-minutes of screentime playing the underwritten love interest for Harrleson.
Hart brings the hustle and comedic delivery just enough to keep “Toronto” from being a complete failure (which is more than Harrleson does playing the Jason Statham stand-in) and with the bar already incredibly low, I suppose that’s an accomplishment.
THE MAN FROM TORONTO debuts on Netflix, Friday June 24th.