Kevin Hart‘s always good for a few manic, exasperated laughs. Laid back Woody Harrelson adds value to pretty much anything he’s in.
Both are experts at “buddy pictures.” “The Man from Toronto” should be a pretty safe bet.
And it is. Safe. There’s a little energy and the tiniest hint of edge to this hit-man meets the guy confused for a hit-man action comedy. But as likable as the two stars are, as experienced as each is at sharing the screen this way, they barely make this “Man” worth your trouble.
Hart’s a fumbling promotions manager at a friend’s gym. Or was. We see him get the sack. His “big ideas” weren’t big enough, or smart. He’s always been like this, creating DIY Youtube exercise videos for the “Teddy Burn” and “Teddy Boxing” (no punches land).
“All the ‘WOW without the ‘ow!'”
“Teddy” has a reputation, which even his wife Lori (Jasmine Matthews) has heard of. His name has “become a verb.” Everybody knows what it means to “Teddy something up.”
They’re getting away for the weekend, to scenic Onancock, Virginia. But after dropping Lori off at a spa, Teddy rolls up to the wrong address for their AirBnB. They two guys there are waiting for someone else. As one guy is tied up and the other has failed to get some needed information out of him, we can guess what “The Man from Toronto” will do.
Especially since we’ve seen this shaved-head, black-hat, shades, overcoat and gloves “specialist” at work.
“When you beg for your life,” The Man tells the first victim he tortures on behalf of a mobster, “I’m not gonna hear your screams.”
But since no one’s ever SEEN this “Man from Toronto,” that’s who they think Teddy is. A nice bit of business — Teddy sees the guy tied up, spins on his heels with a “Oh hell n…..” He’s stopped, and instantly he starts to wing it.
Some mysterious someone from Venezuela has hired this expert “in 23 martial arts,” “a ghost.”
“They say he filleted an entire poker parlor in Minnesota!”
Teddy’s mix-up becomes a government problem when they bust in. He’s been photographed, and now all these mobsters and bad faith/bad state actors think he’s the real “man.” In a “North by Northwest” twist, Teddy is forced to continue the charade. He’s been through some things. He’s about to go through some more.
“The Man from Toronto” only finds its first laughs some minutes in, when Hart and Harrelson’s characters meet for the first time. The “real” man tests the fake one by using his trademark. He quotes s 19th century poets as a code. Lay some Keats on me, little man.
“You wanna hear her old stuff or her new stuff?”
“Well, HE…died at 25.”
“You got some SACK to come with no gender etiquette! ‘He’ may not IDENTIFY as ‘he!'”
It wouldn’t be much of a movie if the “real” man executed the fake one straight off. The script turns itself inside out to keep them paired up, hunted by the Feds and those who hire guys like “The Man from Toronto.” They send “The Man from Miami” (Pierson Fode) after him.
A couple of half-decent escapes and stunt-double-assisted brawls pay off. The whole “Man from” gimmick has promise, because every city has its “man,” apparently. Some one-liners land, such as the way Teddy takes what he’s heard from the Feds and other thugs to relate how he became a hit-man.
“Are you stealing my origin story, now?”
The pretend “relationship” has Teddy and Lori double-dating with his “friend” and hers (Kaley Cuoco).
Cuoco’s presence in this points to a general gripe about Netflix “star” comedies. They spend all their money on the stars (Jason Statham originally had the title role, and Sony set this up for theatrical release). And there’s nothing left for the supporting players.
Sitcom-sharp Cuoco registers and manages a funny moment, but no other supporting players in this thing is famous or funny or was given anything amusing to do.
The leads click well enough. But every moment Hart and Harrelson aren’t on the screen, the film dies. The real torture in this torture comedy becomes the too-long wait for it to end.
Rating: PG-13 (Some Strong Language|Violence Throughout|Suggestive Material)
Cast: Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Jasmine Matthews, Pierson Fode and Kaley Cuoco
Credits: Directed by Patrick Hughes, scripted by Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:50