The most distinctive thing about The Man from Toronto would probably be its unique title as it is ultimately a generic action-comedy flick. That doesn’t mean bad, mostly because the two leads are enjoyable and they make the film a livelier than it has any reason to. And some of the action is good in small controlled bursts. The comedic tone varies wildly in quality but some bits land. For a movie featuring everyone talking about a man from Toronto it could have used a few of the truly (and correct!) pronunciations of the city’s name, especially from the main character who is supposed to be from Toronto.
Teddy (Kevin Hart) is attempting various moneymaking fitness schemes and failing miserably, much to the consternation of his loving wife, Lori (Jasmine Mathews). Randy (Woody Harrelson) is an international assassin only known as the Man from Toronto. Due to some wacky missteps, a late arrival and some bad printer toner, Teddy shows up at a location and is assumed to be the Man from Toronto. When the Feds kick down the door, they enlist Teddy to assume the man from Toronto’s identity for a sting operation, which Teddy goes along with although he’s incredibly annoyed his wife has a very attractive agent protecting her. Teddy eventually runs into the real man from Toronto and Randy convinces him to continue the charade for a tactical advantage. But Randy’s handler (Ellen Barkin) is getting anxious for the man from Toronto to complete his mission while Teddy is stuck along for the ride.
Constantly calling him “The Man from Toronto” is kind of awkward. It turns out the central conceit of this fictional universe is all assassins call themselves the man from (insert city here) and nobody thinks it’s weird. So, there’s another guy tagging along constantly tripping up Randy and Teddy’s plans who calls himself the Man from Miami (Pierson Fode). And then later a gaggle of assassins show up from Tokyo, Moscow and Tacoma. Miami is particularly nasty as he works people over with golf clubs and Fode gives him a f yuppie flair. In a movie full of clichés, the well groomed assassin isn’t unique.
It is kind of neat that the meanest assassin is from Toronto and just saying his name turns people into cowardly wretches. Since nobody knows who he is that’s why Teddy can get away with impersonating him leading to mistaken identity hijinks. Randy likes to quote classic poetry and Teddy just sort of makes up random facts on the spot. Probably the best scene is when Teddy is interrogating some goons for information and proceeds to spectacularly fail. When he indirectly slashes a goon in the eye he projectile vomits over multiple people which makes them give up information. Unorthodox, but it works. There’s a funny sight gag when Teddy shows up at a location with objects for a night of romance with his wife and the goons think its kinky torture equipment.
Hart provides his usual amusing motor mouthed energy. Teddy is a sad sack who fails at all of his endeavors to the point where “Teddy-ing something” has become a verb for failure. Even the owner of the gym Teddy works at tells him that he completely screwed up the advertisement flyers because he forgot both the address and the phone number. As with many action comedies, Teddy comes to a self-realization through violence. Harrelson is still great at a role he’s done many times of the grizzled badass with a short fuse. There is a little bit of character development as the man from Toronto is potentially losing his edge after letting a target from Minnesota go free. Randy has dreams of giving up the assassination game to make his own restaurant and he’s nervous around women. This leads to Lori’s friend Anne (Kaley Cuoco) making a pass at him when Randy and Teddy meet them for dinner. This lets Coco be entertaining in a few scenes as the loud, somewhat boozy best friend. Barkin as Randy’s handler is shot out of focus as a mysterious figure for most of the movie which supposedly makes her reveal a big twist but it doesn’t feel that way. She’s good at being snarky, though.
There’s a fun gag where Lori’s assigned protective agent is caring and attentive which makes Teddy look like a tool. There’s even a late manufactured break up between Lori and Teddy leading to a frantic chase to find her at the train station. The vibe of the film is kind of all over the place, sometimes it gets a little too serious like with Randy’s tragic backstory. Other times it’s cartoony violent as both Teddy and Randy get shot multiple times and it doesn’t slow them down. Even the exit of the Handler is over the top gruesome but funny. Some of the action scenes have some kick, like a visceral fight on a cargo plane or when Randy and Teddy take on an entire crew of assassins. Those two action bits are so peppy it makes the rest look lame.
There isn’t anything surprisingly original in The Man from Toronto, aside from its Canuck title. But the lead actors are entertaining in something they’ve done many times before. Nothing game changing for the action genre but it does have lively bits.
The Man From Toronto
Director: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Kevin Hart, Woody Harrelson, Kaley Cuoco, Jasmine Mathews, Lela Loren, Pierson Fodé, Jencarlos Canela and Ellen Barkin