Cynical filmmaking brings down stars Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson in The Man from Toronto
The success of a particular movie can oftentimes come down to something indescribable. There are so many disparate parts, including the acting, writing, directing, editing, and many other elements, that go into making a movie work that it can be difficult for the viewer to pick out exactly where a movie went right or wrong.
That is not the case with The Man from Toronto, which makes a strong case for the worst movie of the year from minute one. Comedian Kevin Hart leads the way as Teddy Jackson, a fitness entrepreneur who hawks some questionable products in cheesy lo-fi videos. Even his wife Lori (Jasmine Matthews) expects him to “pull a Teddy,” i.e. screw up, on a daily basis, although she’s more forgiving than most.
A plan by Teddy to treat Lori to a fun getaway for her birthday goes awry when, due to a poorly-printed page, he winds up at a house where the titular Man from Toronto (Woody Harrelson), an interrogator/enforcer for criminals, is expected. Because no one has a photo of the Man from Toronto, Teddy is mistaken for him, drawing him into a criminal conspiracy that has him go on a multi-country journey, with the actual man hot on his tail.
Directed by Patrick Hughes (The Hitman’s Bodyguard) and written by Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner, the film is one of the laziest attempts at an action comedy that this critic has ever seen. Too much of the focus is on Hart’s character and his “jokes,” which rely on mostly obvious observations about his surroundings and are never clever or funny. The filmmakers attempt to go for Odd Couple vibes when Hart and Harrelson eventually team up, but the efforts at playing the two characters off each other is half-hearted at best.
And that’s just the comedy side of the movie; it gets even worse on the action side. The Man from Toronto is supposed to be the most feared man in the criminal world, yet the film never shows exactly why, as every person being interrogated gives up info with little or no effort. Any actual action scene is marred by extremely shoddy CGI and less-than-believable fighting. A decent fight scene near the end of the film is too little, too late.
Hart is one of those actors who’s hit-and-miss depending on the film he’s in, and he’s a big miss in this one. His shtick wears thin almost from the moment he appears on screen, and there’s no point in the film where he’s even remotely appealing. Harrelson has the ability to be menacing, but the film makes a joke of that character trait, leaving him with little to rely on in that regard.
It’s unclear how any of the people responsible for this abomination of a film would think any of it is actually entertaining, but none of their efforts are apparent on screen. The Man from Toronto is cynical moviemaking at its worst, thinking movie fans will be drawn in by sheer star power; don’t fall for it.
The Man from Toronto is now streaming on Netflix.