/ 12 August 2022

One Movie, Two Takes: The Man from Toronto

Cliché: Woody Harrelson (left) and Kevin Hart (right) in ‘The Man from Toronto’.

The Netflix limited series True Story is perhaps the most recent example of Kevin Hart in a role that does not require him to play the awkward jester. The comedian’s portrayal of Kid, his fictitious doppelganger, is a compelling glimpse of his dramatic range. Die Hart fans who were thrown by the dark thrill of the series he executive produced will be pleased to see the megastar revert to type as the bumbling sidekick in The Man from Toronto.

In yet another funny guy/straight guy buddy film, Hart brings to life the character of Teddy Jackson, who is fired from his position as a salesman at Marty’s Fitness. Woody Harrelson is the nameless assassin from Canada.

When Jackson gatecrashes an interrogation where the man from Toronto is expected, the unlikely collaborators are set on a collision course by a case of mistaken identity. Hart’s character is apprehended by the FBI and required to pose as the hitman to draw out a corrupt Venezuelan diplomat. Harrelson’s character cannot stand for this ruse, which results in non-payment from his handler, so he is left with little choice but to intercept Jackson and prove to the Venezuelans that an impostor is in their midst.

The unlikely pair discovers that they have more to gain from helping each other than showing each other up. The Canadian assassin has the skills to keep Jackson alive in the criminal underworld, while the salesman’s instincts detect that the hitman’s handler is lying to him. When the betrayal bursts open, a small army is sent after the protagonists.

In their quest to survive, Harrelson and Hart’s characters talk about their pasts. It turns out that the man from Toronto is only in the killing business to finance his dream of becoming a restaurateur, while Jackson must mend the holes in his marriage and become an entrepreneur if he is not to perceive himself as a complete failure.

Kaley Cuoco saunters in to collect the easiest paycheque of her career as the Canadian’s love interest. YouTubers will have their next challenge in calculating her screen-time, which can only amount to a cameo even though her name appears third in the acting credits.

Do not ask logical questions such as why a man from Toronto speaks with a Southern drawl or why highly trained assassins always miss when it counts, or even why villains must always make a speech just long enough to allow the hero to pick up a brick and clobber them. Simply come ready to laugh, for that is what the movie delivers. — Lumumba Mthembu 

‘Sigh. Another Kevin Hart movie,” I thought after I received the assignment to review his latest film, The Man from Toronto. Now I need to get this across to explain my take on this being “just another one of Hart’s movies”. I am probably among the few people who is not a Kevin Hart fan. I don’t think he’s funny and his movies have all been a cliché.

You might think that I don’t enjoy comedy  but let’s look back at one of Hart’s movies. In Central Intelligence, Hart stars as an underachieving but sympathetic guy who is embroiled in an espionage mission by a former classmate. The scripts usually involve Hart portraying bumbling underachievers trying new jobs and failing. This is often juxtaposed with a beautiful wife who believes in him but towards the end gives up on him because she feels she deserves better — only to later reconcile with him because he finally figured out his life. The Man from Toronto is one of those films. 

I did laugh at one or two scenes but still this is not a movie I would pay to watch in a cinema. 

Hart plays Teddy Jackson, who starts out by making videos for his fitness followers as he tries to sell his signature workout techniques. He then plans a birthday retreat in coastal Virginia for his wife, Lori, played by Jasmine Matthews. He prints the cabin reservation details but the details are not shown correctly. Teddy misreads the address and accidentally intercepts the man from Toronto’s (played by Woody Harrelson), next hit. The hit goes south and in a sting operation to snag a Venezuelan crime lord, Teddy is recruited by the FBI to impersonate the man from Toronto. 

We see a lot of gruesome scenes in the movie, mixed with Hart’s brand of comedy. He’s a hitman who discourages killings. The stunts and action sequences indicate a high budget for this film. In one of the scenes an in-flight cargo plane is shown with characters dangle from a rope. Other scenes include explosives, weapons and killings. 

Teddy and the man from Toronto develop a bromance while fighting to stay alive when they become the hit.Naturally, there’s a happy ending. Teddy and the man from Toronto complete the mission and end up in their dream jobs: Teddy owns a boxing club and the man from Toronto opens a restaurant. They end up in happy relationships, but not before Teddy does his clichéd scene of chasing after the woman he loves and apologising after she finds out about the mission. — Sonri Naidoo