The Toronto Man presents us with a world in which a network of assassins represent multiple cities and, in many cases, embody the broadest stereotypes about their hometowns. And the one from Toronto, Canada, who grew up on a frozen lake and saw his father attacked by bears, is played by… Woody Harrelson. One of the most Texan actors in Texas. Perhaps a viewer might correctly suspect that he was not the original casting choice. In fact, before Harrelson, the role was for Jason Statham. The most cockney action star of all time cockney.
All top Canadians must be busy that day. Or possibly just pretending they were, because The Toronto ManThe script is very bad. One gimmick after another glues scenes together, with bits of backstory suddenly added at the moment they are essential to the story, rather than being established earlier. For a character-based “mistaken identity” comedy that lives or dies based on the humorous interactions between two A-list leads, its poor script barely constitutes life support.
Kevin Hart plays Teddy, an aspiring fitness product inventor who tends to mess up the details, but his wife (Jasmine Matthews) still loves him. Determined to show her a good time despite all the setbacks in his career, he books a nice vacation weekend, but his lack of attention to detail leads him to the wrong house, where Randy the Toronto Man is. expected for a place of torture and murder. Teddy is misidentified by other key players as the Toronto Man, and under movie comedy rules, the US government insists he play along until he gets some crucial information to save the world. It’s more of a measure of the script’s flaws that the villains’ plan is never fully understandable; Of course, it’s a MacGuffin, so it certainly doesn’t have to be, but it all feels a lot like a first draft, where a simple rewrite could have clarified and tied things up much more efficiently.
This is the kind of movie where Kaley Cuoco appears at the end of the game as a previously unestablished character to pull off some crazy comedy shenanigans as part of a double date misunderstanding. She’s naturally good at such things, but how much better could she have been served if someone had taken the time to give her an iota of history? Once again, we learn character traits after the fact.
As an actor, Hart often works best as the highest part of an ensemble (think like a man and the Jumanji sequels) or alongside a straight man with impeccable timing, like Dwayne Johnson or Ice Cube. When paired with another comedian, like Will Ferrell in sleep or Tiffany Haddish in Night school, they have to be able to match or surpass your energy. Harrelson, who is more of a comedic character actor, doesn’t really fit the bill; even when he plays hard as a rock, like Mickey Knox in born killers or Tallahassee at zombieland films, there is a satirical edge mocking the stance. And when he does pure comedy, he tends to underestimate. Statham, in full Spy way, it would have been a strong choice to pair with Hart. Harrelson is as effective a counter here as he is a reliable Canadian, which is to say nothing. He’s too broad to be a sounding board, and not hilariously frantic enough to push Hart even further.
The director of all this is Patrick Hughes of 3 consumables and The assassin’s bodyguard films. There’s nothing here to suggest he’s exceptional at his work, though the action is at least coherent. The film’s most notable sequence sees Hart falling from a series of overhead light fixtures as the world’s worst Super Mario player, though he never makes the character’s danger palpable. Hart gets hit and takes a few drops, but his reactions to all the antics seem strangely understated. Yelling is something he does well, generally, so turning down the volume is counterintuitive.
Somehow this was planned to be released in theaters, where it would surely have died. On Netflix, the bar is lower and the algorithm can count as a view if someone watches part of it and then turns it off. If it hadn’t been for my job to finish, this is certainly what I would have done.