Comedy is one of the hardest genres, both in film and television. Anyone who dares to tackle this genre needs to be confident in their jokes, and they need to be actually funny to make it work. There is nothing worse than a comedy that tries to be funny and fails at it. Comedy is also quite subjective, what is hilarious for some people can be cringe worthy for another person. So, it is quite difficult to make a comedy that can appease a huge number of people.
When you add action to the mix, then all becomes even more difficult to do. Bad action can become hilarious, and that is precisely what you don’t want. You want action to be exciting, the kind of scenes that make the audience cheer and leave them on the edge of their seats. Action is really hard to execute, you need a true team of professionals to do it well, and someone behind the camera that understands how to shoot it.
The Man From Toronto, the Netflix film of the week, tries to mix the two together and the result is quite lackluster. Instead of following the steps of classic action comedies like The Nice Guys, Red, Hot Fuzz, or Beverly Hills Cop, the movie takes the premise of mistaken identity and then rolls with it for too long. The movie is almost two hours long, and it feels like precisely 90 minutes would have been the better running time for a movie that lacks ideas, and lacks proper execution.
The film is directed by Patrick Hughes, who has worked before in films like the Hitman’s Bodyguards 1 and 2, and The Expendables 3. So, this guy already has experience in the genre. The Man From Toronto is quite similar to the Hitman’s Bodyguard, actually, especially in the way the characters behave and in the way the action is staged. Despite having a ton of experience in the genre, Hughes hasn’t really proven that he can go the extra mile and deliver something that is quite amazing.
He almost pulls it off with the final action sequence of the movie, which is one that feels funny, exciting, and powerful. Maybe it was because the film was shot during the pandemic or whatnot, but it is clear that all time and effort went into the creation of that sequence. Every other instance of action falls short during the rest of the movie, which is a shame as the movie really wants the audience to identify the film as an action movie.
The film stars Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson, and both actors bring their charisma to the front. These two are really trying to elevate the material to the next level, but the premise, the dialogue, and the characters all feel incredibly shallow. The story is just too cliché at this point to allow people to get invested. Every single plot point can be predicted after the first 20 minutes of the film, and a movie like this that delivers no surprises becomes boring quite fast.
On a technical level, the movie is competent, but it doesn’t really do anything to stand out, especially in the first two acts of the film. The cinematography and the sound design are all solid. Hughes really saved everything he got for the final sequence. Sadly, waiting for the last stretch of the film to really show what you can do as a director doesn’t really make for a good calling card. That energy and level of execution were really missing from the rest of the film.
Hart and Harrelson do have a lot of chemistry together, but the improvisation as a way to deliver the jokes needed to fill out the dialogue only goes so far. The movie’s main issue is the script, without a doubt. The story needed a bit more polished, it needed better characters, and dialogue that feels higher and with more purpose, not only in the service of the comedy but also to move the plot forward.
Netflix is having some major wins lately, with TV shows like Stranger Things Season 4, and films like The Sea Beast proving that they are capable of producing high-quality content instead of regurgitating quantity over quality. However, films like these feel like a step back from that perception. The Man From Toronto really feels like the Netflix that the company itself needs to avoid in the future if it wants to win back the goodwill of its subscribers.
The Man From Toronto will definitely find its audience. It is a forgettable film that might give the viewers a couple of laughs here and there during its running time, but it can’t go beyond there, thanks to a weak script and cheap production values. Action comedies come few and far between nowadays, Spy might have been the last great one in the genre. It doesn’t mean other filmmakers cannot try to make the next great one, but absolutely The Man From Toronto is not the one we are waiting for.