Review by C.J. Bunce
Would the real Man from Toronto please stand up?
One of the best elements of the 2009-2015 crime/action series White Collar was the late Willie Garson as Moz. And Moz’s best episode featured his backstory as the dreaded crime boss, the “Dentist of Detroit,” a partially mythical mercenary you’d never want to meet in person. Casting Woody Harrelson as a similar character was an inspired choice for this year’s direct-to-Netflix movie, The Man from Toronto. Pair Harrelson with the current funniest funnyman at the movies, Kevin Hart, and you have the makings of a summer hit. Add the year’s best cinema action sequences, and you have an action movie you can’t miss. Oddly enough, it’s also the year’s best Jason Statham movie–without Jason Statham.
The movie was slated to star Statham, but a clash with producers prompted him to leave the project. Who knew Harrelson could be a good swap for Statham? Even if audiences can practically hear Statham deliver Harrelson’s lines, Harrelson makes the part of the The Man his own. He’s a bit Man with No Name, a shadowy ghost with a Yul Brynner vibe–complete with his The Magnificent Seven and Westworld black hat. With his 1969 Dodge Charger he named Deb, just a visit from The Man from Toronto puts fear in the hearts of his targets, as well the criminals that hire him.
Enter Kevin Hart as Teddy Jackson, one of his familiar personas, an ambitious, under-performing, screw-up underdog. He works for the manager of a boxing club as the sales and marketing guy. No surprise the manager can barely afford to have one, or that he fires Teddy for spending his budget on flyers that don’t include an address or telephone number.
As Teddy tries to get an anniversary weekend right with his wife, he screws that up, too, printing the directions to a weekend cabin with low toner, resulting in Teddy ending up at the wrong house, right when The Man from Toronto is scheduled for his next project. The rest of the movie is wall-to-wall fish-out-of-water hijinks, flipped identities, and ultimately–and best of all–partnering together to get out of the messes Teddy gets them into.
The final battle at the boxing club is perfect–the stuff of the best Mission: Impossible sequences–but a fight scene aboard an airplane falling from the sky is a close second. The choreography and stunt quality is way above the expectation anyone would normally have for a comedy movie like this.
Hart is reliably funny and Harrelson is reliably exciting and different. The movie is directed by Patrick Hughes, which explains similarities to both The Expendables and The Hitman’s Bodyguard series, with writers who worked on The Equalizer and Bad Boys series. It co-stars Jasmine Mathews (The Rookie) as Teddy’s wife, Jencarlos Canela (Telenovela) as a federal agent, and Lela Loren (Altered Carbon, The Closer, Chuck) and Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, Buckaroo Banzai) as baddies. And Kaley Cuoco (Charmed) is the perfect match for Harrelson in her first major mature movie role as Teddy’s wife’s friend.
With all the streaming content from multiple providers this year, this one might be easy to overlook. Don’t. Fun for fans of comedy movies like Central Intelligence, Kevin Hart humor, and Jason Statham movies, catch The Man from Toronto now streaming on Netflix.