When people who cancel their Netflix subscriptions complain about a lackluster library, it's probably movies like "The Man From Toronto" they point fingers at. Take an interesting premise, and then waste it with immature writing and strange casting choices.
To be clear, Netflix has great films in its library, titles like "Concrete Cowboy," "Worth," and "The Power of the Dog." But for every one of those, it seems like there are at least two or three more like "Thunder Force," "Interceptor," and now "The Man From Toronto."
The story sounded promising, a great setup for an action comedy. A husband named Teddy (Kevin Hart) rents a cabin for a surprise birthday getaway with his wife, Ruth (Jasmine Mathews). But when he shows up to the wrong cabin, Teddy wanders into an FBI sting and is mistaken for a torture expert called The Man From Toronto (Woody Harrelson).
After they figure out their mistake, the FBI tells Teddy he has to keep pretending to be The Man From Toronto for the real guy to be arrested -- or something. The FBI agents aren't really clear about what their overall goals are. Maybe there's something about an earthquake machine and a foreign leader visiting America. It's all muddled and explained poorly, almost as if the exposition was an accidental addition to the film.
Needless to say, it doesn't take the real Man From Toronto long to catch up to Teddy, and then he needs the ruse to continue because the villains have a picture of Teddy.
That sounds like a funny setup, right? A man with no fighting experience has to pretend to be an anonymous assassin? Er -- torture expert. The movie can't seem to keep the two straight.
Writers Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner have an issue, in that, very few of the jokes in this movie land, and "The Man" only gets so much mileage out of "Teddy's not a trained killer." This is supposed to be an action comedy, but half of that doesn't come through at all because of the way Teddy is written and who he has to play off of.
To Hart's credit, he's likely playing the character as written and directed. But Teddy is written to be a frustrating character whose sole mission is to fill every bit of silence that could possibly exist in the movie. He talks nonstop in every scene, even when the camera isn't on him. It's agitating. Sometimes scenes need quiet to offset action or tension. And the script didn't leave any room for Teddy to breathe, to observe, to react. It doesn't do the character justice.
And when you pair that with an actor like Harrelson, who is no stranger to action movies, it doesn't leave him with much room to play off beyond the same old routine of Harrelson fighting while Hart screams in the background. That's the movie's one joke, and it's played repeatedly until there's nothing left of the dead horse. It's gone. Reduced to atoms.
To top it all off, "The Man" is filled with immature and ludicrous dialogue. Lines like, "There's nothing sadder than a hard man gone soft," and "This is all pig sex! Now who's ready to oink?" It's enough to leave the audience sighing and wondering if an eighth-grader wrote some of these.
The script's problems don't end there. "The Man" pushes as close to a two-hour runtime as it can when a mere 90 minutes would have been far more merciful. Though some audiences may call it quits when the film steals the ending of "John Wick: Chapter 2."
Bonus points for the script somehow having time to work in a joke about being gender neutral, in 2022 nonetheless. Bravo.
When Netflix started getting into the business of original content, some people speculated it would lead to a company with millions of dollars to throw at whatever it wanted, inflating a library with hit-or-miss films. Well, those people were right. But that's not really a huge sin because straight-to-VHS and straight-to-DVD films have existed for years. That's what "The Man" feels like.
At least the action sequences are decent. For a movie where Harrelson does a lot of killing, the one positive thing that can be said about "The Man" is the killing looks fine. But that realization just leads to questions like: would this have been more successful as a straight-up action film that ditched the comedy? Go find a crystal ball and check.
"The Man From Toronto" will likely find its audience. Barstool Sports has a lot of fans, after all. But it's not for everybody. Whoever wants it can find the film on Netflix today.