There’s very little Toronto in “The Man From Toronto.” There’s the iconic CN Tower, visible only in a distant establishing shot of the twilit skyline, and a few shots of a remote hide-out somewhere on the outskirts of town, before our Canadian hit man hero (Woody Harrelson) is called away on a mission, and the action moves elsewhere — Minnesota, Puerto Rico, the suburbs of Virginia.
Ironically, the movie was filmed almost entirely in Ontario, so Toronto, its capital — as well as Hamilton, Milton and Brampton — will frequently show up disguised as somewhere else. When Harrelson chases Teddy (Kevin Hart), a bumbling fitness buff embroiled in an assassination plot because of a case of mistaken identity, they’re actually cruising beneath downtown Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway — not the streets of Washington D.C. No one in the cast even manages to pronounce “Toronto” correctly.
“Geographic license is usually an alibi for laziness,” Thom Andersen once observed in his feature-length essay film “Los Angeles Plays Itself.” In “The Man From Toronto,” directed by Patrick Hughes, the vague sense of location is typical of a broader lack of effort. Although Hart, as the broadly comic version of the classic Hitchcockian Wrong Man, has a certain goofball charm, his frantic coward routine gets old quickly, with no appreciable change as the action-flick danger continues to escalate. Harrelson, on the other hand, does little with the role of the unflappable super assassin, playing put-upon straight man to Hart’s over-the-top jester without much chemistry.
As the shoot-em-up carnage builds to a long one-take fight sequence in Teddy’s gym — reminiscent of the spectacular church battle in the 2014 movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” with less panache — the overall feeling is one of simply going through the motions. That’s a shame, eh?
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