You can’t feel let down by “The Man From Toronto” any more than you should be disappointed when you take a slice of leftover pizza out of the microwave and it turns out to be bland, doughy and at best OK. I mean, before you even dive in you can tell it’s not going to be great, right?
Still, there’s something almost depressing about sitting through this slick, formulaic, unoriginal and consistently dumb Netflix thriller from director Patrick Hughes, who follows the same cynical playbook he created with “The Expendables 3” (2014) “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017) and “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (2021), i.e., you put a bunch of big-name stars in a ludicrous action story with no more of a real-world connection than an “Avengers” movie, and everybody gets to quip and banter between shootouts and explosions, all of it choreographed to quick-cut editing and a synthetic soundtrack.
The shame of it is in the wasting of a terrific cast. This is the kind of movie that has Kevin Hart playing the underdog dreamer who keeps on disappointing his wife with his failed career moves. This is the kind of movie that has Woody Harrelson hamming it up as the titular character, a legendary assassin who has a muscle car he treats like a girlfriend, complete with the name of “Deborah.” This is the kind of movie that keeps the great Ellen Barkin literally in the shadows as a criminal mastermind, and relegates the wonderful Kaley Cuoco to an embarrassing supporting role as a man-hungry best girlfriend who might as well have stepped out of a cheesy 1970s rom-com. Is anybody even trying here?
Netflix presents a film directed by Patrick Hughes and written by Robbie Fox and Chris Bremner. Rated PG-13 (for violence throughout, some strong language and suggestive material). Running time: 112 minutes. Available Friday on Netflix.
Hart’s Teddy, who keeps on screwing up at the gym where he works with his terrible promotional ideas, tries to make things right with his long-suffering wife Lori (Jasmine Mathews) by arranging for a romantic getaway at an Airbnb in the country — but due to a “Low Toner situation” with his receipt, Teddy gets the address wrong and winds up in a safe house where some bad guys are expecting a hired hitman known as The Man from Toronto to torture and extract information from a prisoner.
Meanwhile, the actual Man from Toronto (Harrelson) is on his way to the scene — but before he arrives, the FBI bursts in, and they tell Teddy that the only way to find the real Man from Toronto “is if you continue to BE the Man from Toronto.” That’s right, they convince this regular schmo to impersonate a mercenary, which eventually leads to Teddy reluctantly teaming up with The Man from Toronto for an Action Buddy Comedy that has them taking on all manner of threats, crash-landing a plane, getting shot, killing a bunch of henchmen and, yes, somehow becoming unlikely friends — though the Man from Toronto is, well, a stone-cold killer. “People can change!” says Teddy.
Maybe so. But this movie sticks to its guns from start to finish, leaving nothing but a lot of forgettable wreckage in its wake.