DIRECTOR: Patrick Hughes

CAST: Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Kaley Cuoco, Ellen Barkin, Pierson Fodé, Jasmine Mathews, Lela Loren, Kate Drummond, Tomohisa Yamashita

RUNNING TIME: 110 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: A down-on-his-luck entrepreneur (Hart) is mistaken for a deadly assassin (Harrelson)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Since breaking out with his well-received 2010 action-thriller Red Hill, director Patrick Hughes hasn’t had a whole lot of luck in Hollywood. His work on The Expendables 3 is considered the worst in that franchise to date, the box-office hit The Hitman’s Bodyguard delivered unremarkable thrills, and the less said about Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, the better. Sadly, his bad luck doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, because not even The Man from Toronto can save the Australia-born filmmaker from the annals of Hollywood mediocrity.

The film’s problems began even before its eventual release: originally scheduled as a theatrical tentpole, not only was production shut down for several months in 2020 due to COVID, but original star Jason Statham abruptly left weeks before shooting began after apparently disagreeing with the movie’s overall tone, and eventually Netflix swooped in to quietly release it with minimal fanfare after it remained in release-date limbo. Having seen the finished movie, it’s hard not to sympathise with Statham; The Man from Toronto is an utter mess, and not just because of its wildly inconsistent tone.

The plot follows a guy named Teddy (Kevin Hart), a would-be entrepreneur who’s known as such a screw-up that his name has become a verb for screwing up. Attempting to give his wife Lori (Jasmine Matthews) a romantic birthday weekend, he books a remote cabin for the two of them – but upon arriving, Teddy is horrified to find a group of thugs there, who have mistaken him for a legendary hitman known as “the Man from Toronto”, which forces Teddy to pose as the assassin to take down a rather confusing plot to blow up a Venezuelan embassy. Things get complicated, however, when the real Man from Toronto (Woody Harrelson, filling the role that Statham would have played) shows up, and reluctantly teams with Teddy to complete his compromised mission.

Clearly going for that familiar action-comedy mix which Hughes worked with on the Hitman’s Bodyguard movies, The Man from Toronto unevenly shifts between action which isn’t all that thrilling, and comedy that just isn’t funny. Because neither element is working particularly well, the movie fails to engage the viewer with a plot that relies too heavily on dumb people doing stupid things, and characters who lack any type of fresh personality outside of who they’re played by; Kevin Hart is simply doing his usual fast-talking schtick here, and Woody Harrelson plays his role about the same as every other hardened Woody Harrelson performance in the last number of films he’s been in. Both actors feel wasted in these nothing roles, as do other supporting actors (Kaley Cuoco, star of the well-received series The Flight Attendant, is insultingly given such a miniscule and insignificant part that it might as well have been played by an extra) who, like the headlining duo, are given little to do other than play into their star personas.

There’s nothing to latch on to with this plot or lead characters, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the movie was entertaining enough to hold interest. However, beyond the pale retread of several action-comedy conventions, and the woefully unfunny humour, Hughes’ film lacks any sense of style or energy to keep itself afloat. While The Man from Toronto is nowhere near as obnoxious as Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, it could have benefited from some of that obnoxiousness because then the movie would have at least had some trace of personality; you can practically feel Hughes and the writers painting this script by numbers, adhering to the familiar structure so closely that you can see every little twist and turn coming from miles ahead. It’s a dull movie to watch, since a lot of the editing makes some of the action sequences incomprehensible, as do some questionable effects that even prevent that suspension of disbelief (some of the CG explosions look utterly cartoonish), and while there are some shots which don’t look terrible they’re given no discernible rhythm to match the unmotivated visuals that surround them. The sheer lack of entertainment makes the hour-and-fifty-minute runtime feel so much longer, because it will keep going even when it feels like things have just been wrapped up within a truly climactic sense, by which point you’re just anxious for it to finally end.

Like Jerry and Marge Go Large, it’s ultimately a good thing that this was shipped to streaming instead of the cinema, because a movie like The Man from Toronto has no business occupying the big screen. Not only is it incredibly unentertaining, with neither action nor comedy elements saving its unremarkable plotting or characters, but it’s yet another setback for Patrick Hughes who, by this point in his lacklustre Hollywood career, you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Man from Toronto is a wholly unentertaining mess of an action-comedy that contains few thrills and even fewer laughs, wasting its high-profile actors on undercooked writing and unenthusiastic direction that lacks personality and originality.

The Man from Toronto is now available to stream on Netflix.

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