Hollywood has churned out its fair share of films in which two polar opposites pair up on an adventure: Rush Hour, Ride Along, The Hitman’s Bodyguard... Director Patrick Hughes, who directed The Hitman’s Bodyguard, brings to us The Man From Toronto, yet another reiteration of the buddy cop genre, which usually thrives in the way the leads play off each other.
Patrick makes the right move by having Kevin Hart, a superstar of this subgenre, feature as Teddy, a failed and bumbling salesman with a never-say-die attitude. He is pitted alongside Woody Harrelson’s titular character, an assassin specialising in various torture methods to extract truth from his victims. When Teddy gets mistaken for the ‘man from Toronto’, what we have is a classic comedy of errors that is riddled with gunshots, sword swings, car chases, flight crashes, and as you can imagine, toilet humour and projectile vomiting.
However, despite having names like Kevin and Woody, and keeping the stakes high—there’s an assassination attempt that could sabotage international peace—this film never quite takes off. The dialogues are silly, and it is telling when even the collective calibre of the leads of The Man from Toronto can’t salvage the shoddy writing. From when the mistaken identity theme gets taken over by the buddy-cop angle, The Man from Toronto moves from one hackneyed development to another. It’s a lot of what we have already seen and frankly, become fatigued of.
The sub-plot of Teddy making up to his wife Lori (Jasmine Matthews) and the romance angle between the ‘man from Toronto’ aka Randy and Anne (Kaley Cuoco) shows some potential to be more than just addled cliches, but the writing doesn’t show any real intent even here. The mistaken identity trope at the centre of the film is not fleshed out enough too, and the writers (Robbie Fox, Jason Blumenthal and Chris Bremner) take the easy way out by resorting to simple scenes built merely to exploit whatever rapport Kevin and Woody share.
The actors do give it their all, with Kevin channelling his inner stand-up comedian and Woody being a poker-faced assassin with a menacing voice, but then, there is only so much they can do. No amount of double-crossing, bungling hand-to-hand combat, and relentless banter can compensate for lack of ingenuity in the writing and a wafer-thin plot.