Film & TV

Film Review: ‘The Man From Toronto’: Hart and Harrelson Are Hit and Miss

BY Michael Clark TIMEJune 22, 2022 PRINT

PG-13 | 1h 52min | Comedy, Action, AdventureCrime | 24 June 2022

Trying way harder than it needed to, “The Man From Toronto” (TMFT) is a mixed-bag, broad, mismatched buddy comedy cut from kinda-sorta the same cloth as the “48 Hrs.,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Bad Boys,” “Men in Black,” and “Austin Powers” franchises.

Also containing elements of “John Wick,” “Midnight Run,” and “RED,” it is derivative as all get-out and works a tad more than half of the time. The best that can be said about it: It’s never boring and ends far better than it begins.

Finally debuting on Netflix after multiple release date changes by original distributor Sony-Columbia, “TMFT” stars Woody Harrelson as the title character called Toronto (his Christian and surnames are never revealed), a fixer of sorts, who is regularly hired by a woman via phone, known only as “The Handler,” played by Ellen Barkin.

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Kevin Hart and Ellen Barkin in “The Man From Toronto.” (Netflix)

Toronto’s job is to extract sensitive or damning Intel from insiders, informants, and maybe or maybe not turncoats affiliated with underworld types after all other similar attempts by others have failed.

Muscle Car Character

Toronto arrives at any given job with an assortment of imposing cutlery and addresses his subject with a pat childhood story involving his grandfather and a bear on a frozen lake, promising severe disfigurement if they don’t cooperate. Most of them do. He then splits in his cherry 1969 Dodge Charger 440 R/T, his most adored possession that he’s named Debora, which immediately becomes an inanimate character.

Toronto’s next gig is on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, which just happens to be the destination getaway spot for Teddy (Kevin Hart) and his wife Lori (Jasmine Mathews) for their wedding anniversary (which Teddy always forgets).

A failure on almost every level, Teddy has just been fired by a local gym owner after delivering one hairbrained marketing idea after another. So inept is he that Lori’s co-workers have turned his name into a verb; if you messed something up, you “Teddyed” it.

Because Teddy forgot to replace the ink toner in his printer, he thinks the street number on his reservation confirmation reads “1465” instead of “1485.” The guys at 1465 mistake him as Toronto, take him to a basement to begin his work where he summarily freaks out, or in other words, he starts behaving like Kevin Hart in virtually every other movie in which he’s ever appeared.

Hart Goes Full-Tilt Stereotype

Screaming in a high-pitched wail while flailing about and contorting, the diminutive and flummoxed Hart is a one-trick pony. He’s been fortunate enough to hypnotize just enough people into believing he’s the second coming of Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor so they’ll queue up to see him in anything.

To Hart’s credit, he did take a stab at drama in 2021 in the limited Netflix series “True Story” alongside Wesley Snipes that was … not very good.

For his part Harrelson is cucumber chill; he’s the poker-face mystery man channeling Johnny Cash’s “man in black,” doing his best to compensate for Hart’s spastic histrionics and, for the most part, succeeding. His greatest task is providing a certain level of measured danger, calculating mystique, and unflappable knowledge of everything going down around him— without revealing he’s the co-lead in a glorified B-film.

Things get really interesting midway through the second act with the arrival of the menacing “Man From Miami” (Pierson Fodé , “The Bold and the Beautiful” TV soap), another tool in The Handler’s wheelhouse who is brought in when it appears Toronto might not be able to handle his duties.

Tall, Dark, and Dangerous

A former model, Fodé makes the most of what could have been a laughable, throw-away bit part by turning a golf putter into a multi-use weapon and becoming that guy who won’t go away.

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Pierson Fodé as the Man From Miami in “The Man From Toronto.” (Sabrina Lantos/Netflix)

If Fodé has any talent or ability in mastering accents, his agent should put him in touch with Barbara Broccoli (the co-producer of the James Bond franchise). This guy would be perfect as the next (or future) 007. Imagine a six-inches taller, thoroughly- ripped, younger version of Jude Law.

At one point the second highest paid actress in network television (behind Sofia Vergara), Kaley Cuoco shows up late in the game as Anne, Lori’s BFF who gets wedged into a preposterous sub-plot designed to occupy Teddy’s better half during his unexplained “absence.” Currently starring in the acclaimed dark-comedy thriller series “The Flight Attendant,” Cuoco has taken a substantial career step down in a role that would usually have been tossed to a has-been or up-and-comer.

Career Improvement?

In a left-handed way, “TMFT” is actually a career step up for director Patrick Hughes, who, after an impressive feature debut (“Red Hill” from 2010) went on to churn out the putrid “Expendables 3” and the even worse “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” franchise. Had there not been so many (three) cooks in the screenplay and story kitchen, “TMFT” might have had a better chance at making a good first impression.

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Kevin Hart as Teddy (L) and Woody Harrelson as the Man from Toronto in “The Man From Toronto.” (Netflix)

It might have also helped matters had the filmmakers concocted a storyline that wasn’t just another tired “madman with a bomb making a political statement” plot retread.

It’s doubtful that Harrelson or Hart would be interested in doing a sequel, but with the amount of other “The Man From [fill in the blank]” characters which pop up along the way, it would be entirely possible to crank out a series of these instantly forgettable, mustard-burp puppies. Worse things could happen.

‘The Man From Toronto’
Director: Patrick Hughes
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kevin Hart, Ellen Barkin, Kaley Cuoco, Jasmine Mathews, Pierson Fode
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: June 24, 2022
Rating: 3 out of 5

Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has provided film content to over 30 print and online media outlets. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a weekly contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on FloridaManRadio.com. Since 1995, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles. He favors dark comedy, thrillers, and documentaries.
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