Synopsis – The world’s deadliest assassin and New York’s biggest screw-up are mistaken for each other at an Airbnb rental.
My Take – With director Patrick Hughes well proving with The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) and it’s 2021 sequel that he can get two actors to work of each other, bickering about their differences as they stumble through the difficulties they create, in an action comedy.
For his latest, he returns to the template that taps into the contrasting image traits of Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson (stepping into a role that was originally written for Jason Statham before his exit) in a bid to set up the familiar odd-couple chemistry formula that has regularly worked down the decades, in films like 48 Hrs (1982), Lethal Weapon (1987), Bad Boys (1995) Rush Hour (1998), Shanghai Noon (2000), Ride Along (2014) and Central Intelligence (2016).
Yet, despite a fun premise and a well-structured first act, this Netflix release quickly turns into your assembly-line action-comedy that devolves into a set of overly familiar studio comedy tropes. While the film is decent enough, maintains its tempo all along and has Kevin Hart being Kevin Hart, it certainly needed more than just humor to work properly, hence, by the end of its 112 minute run time it’s mostly running on fumes.
Nevertheless, Hart and Harrelson are immensely watchable and act as saving grace, making this one a perfectly light watch one will barely remember a week later.
The story follows Teddy (Kevin Hart), a failed internet athletic instructor, who has been a loser in all aspects of life, expect one, his marriage to the lovely and supportive Lori (Jasmine Mathews). Determined to keep her happy, Teddy decides to take his wife away on a relaxing holiday for her birthday. But prone to mess things up as ever, he ends up checking into the wrong cabin where a hit is about to take place.
Realizing that he has been mistaken for a deadly hit man who goes by the name of The Man from Toronto, Teddy just bids time to get by the bizarre encounter that is thankfully, until FBI raids the cabin. While the agents leading the charge are confirmed that Teddy isn’t the mysterious contract killer they are after, yet they ask him to keep up the pretense, all in order to infiltrate and extract important information from the employers of the hit.
Reluctantly agreeing as the FBI complementary and secretly keeps Lori and her best friend, Anne (Kaley Cuoco), engaged in other activities. Teddy’s situation further complicates when the real Man From Toronto, whose real name is Randy (Woody Harrelson), turns up and realizes his best interest lies in letting Teddy continue posing as him. What ensues is Teddy and Randy having to help one another so Teddy can get home to his wife and Randy can get his last big payday and get out of the business.
Not surprisingly, in a repeat of The Hitman duology pattern, originality of plot and plot spins ranks low on director Hughes’ list of priorities this time, too. The focus is on delivering fast-paced drama laced with slapstick humor, never mind if the formula unfolds as familiar set pieces from a countless films of the past.
As Hart and Harrelson match beats playing out essential tropes, they just bring back flashes of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. What prevents the storytelling process from collapsing entirely, despite the paucity of original ideas, is the fact that the element of humor has been cleverly used, in dialogues as well as plot situations.
While Hart’s character has been significantly trivialized down to make him more endearing to the audience, his goofiness is well-matched by the awkward tone that director Patrick Hughes goes for with the physical parts. And it works most of the time.
Sadly, the action isn’t up to the mark. While the $75m budget allows for a multi-person fight scene on an in-flight cargo plane in which characters unbelievably dangle from a rope at full speed. But it’s not quite enough to make it look believable, or to keep the visual effects seams from showing. In comparison, the final blowout fight sequence fares better.
One is left wishing how the writers Robbie Fox, Chris Bremner and Jason Blumenthal could have expanded and really fleshed out the various “Men from Other Cities” segment and use it to build something akin to the John Wick films.
Without a doubt, the otherwise predictable narrative comes alive mostly in scenes that let Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson square off comically. Hart, whose brand of humor as a stand-up comic banks largely on the ability to laugh at himself, is known for mixing caustic and low-brow humor in individual gigs. Here, the mayhem that ensues because he forgot to buy toner is a fun bit, and it allows the film to seamlessly usher us into the mistaken identity plot without feeling too forced.
Woody Harrelson to gives a convincing performance as an all-business torture artist, playing the straight man to Hart’s antics. But most importantly, it’s nice to see Harrelson back in a pure action role where he gets to do a lot of physical fighting that he sells with enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast comprising of Kaley Cuoco, Jasmine Mathews, Ellen Barkin, Lela Loren and Jencarlos Canela are largely wasted. With the exception of Pierson Fodé, who plays the very entertaining Man from Miami. On the whole, ‘The Man from Toronto’ is an inoffensive generic action comedy that is too dependent on its likable leads to entertain.
Directed – Patrick Hughes
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 112 minute