Like many Torontonians, I felt a tremendous jolt of pride when I found out that a film called “The Man From Toronto” was airing on Netflix. After all, it’s rare that a movie with “Toronto” in the title gets released on a major streaming service, so I went bonkers imagining the plot possibilities.
Would it be about a hockey-playing badass who tries to save the city — and its precious ice — from an angry cabal of eco-terrorists who are hell bent on expediting global warming? Or perhaps a rom-com about a lovesick 20-something woman who, after years of searching, finally meets a smart and charming U of T graduate, only to find out he totally exaggerated on his Bumble profile.
The answer? No and no. A quick Google revealed that “The Man From Toronto” was actually an action comedy starring Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson. Hart plays Teddy Jackson, a hapless gym employee desperately trying to start his own fitness business, and Harrelson plays the titular man from Toronto, a cold-blooded mercenary gifted in information extraction (i.e. torturing people until they tell him stuff). They unexpectedly cross paths at an Airbnb and, because of a case of mistaken identity, team up to fight the bad guys and save the world.
Here’s the thing: the movie is set primarily in the United States, which is definitely not Toronto, as the title might suggest. It made me wonder, How Toronto is “The Man From Toronto”? So I watched the film and devised a super scientific methodology, measuring its Toronto-ness in several categories: locations, the man from Toronto and miscellaneous. Each would be measured on a specialized scale out of 10. Quick, let’s get to it.
The movie is set in several locations, everywhere from Toronto to Virginia to Miami to Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C. But get this, a lot of the movie was filmed in the GTA, giving it some serious Toronto energy.
Early in the movie, when the man from Toronto (Harrelson) returns home from a “business trip,” there’s a glorious shot of the cityscape, gloomy clouds overhead, the CN Tower poking proudly upward. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen downtown Toronto featured prominently, even proudly in a major motion picture. Seeing her onscreen was both jarring and glorious.
We also meet Teddy Jackson (Hart), who lives in Yorktown, Virginia, a sleepy coastal town with a modest population. But it’s all just movie magic. Yorktown is actually Milton, west of us on Highway 401, once the fastest growing municipality in all of Canada. Main Street features prominently in the film, the site of car chases and gunfights. The clock tower gets plenty of facetime, too.
Later in the film, the streets of Washington, D.C., look a heck of a lot like the intersection at College and University, right at the foot of Queen’s Park. In another scene, set at night, if you squint extra hard, you can see Momofuku in the backdrop as an ambulance whizzes north on University.
Verdict: With all of its Toronto filming locations, “The Man From Toronto” may as well have been set in Toronto. Rating: 9 CN Towers out of 10
THE MAN FROM TORONTO, THE CHARACTER
Harrelson, who’s very much from Texas, is our man from Toronto. When we first meet his character, he’s driving a Dodge Charger across the arid landscape of Utah, wearing a cowboy hat and an all-black outfit. His accent is, um, Woody Harrelson, flat and nasally with a touch of southern twang. He does not appear, at least at first, to be a Toronto mans.
And it gets worse from there, particularly when Woody pronounces the word “Toronto” and commits the cardinal sin of clearly enunciating the second “t.” This is an egregious oversight. In fact, every single character in the film forgets to drop the second “t.” Didn’t anyone involved in this production see that scene in “Argo”? You know, the one where Ben Affleck teaches the U.S. hostages hiding in the Canadian embassy to pronounce it Toronno instead of Toronto. It’s a clear giveaway. C’mon!
But let’s not jump to conclusions. We need to look closer at Harrelson’s character in order to properly evaluate his Toronto bona fides. The man from Toronto lives outside of downtown, probably in the east end, in a converted space at the back of an abandoned warehouse. The interior of his place is Scandi chic, with polished white wood everywhere. Basically, his converted spot is the quintessential yuppie hideout, impossibly expensive and modern in some rundown area, something Toronto Life would put right on the cover.
There’s also this: when the man from Toronto is finished with being a gun for hire, he dreams of career-swapping and opening his own restaurant. Is there anything more Toronto than that??? He’s also got a few tattoos. (Spoiler alert: at the end of the film, when he does open his own restaurant, the man names it “Toronto’s,” giving the film an added local flourish.)
Verdict: Harrelson might not look or talk like someone from Toronto, but his living quarters and life aspirations seem to fit the archetype. Rating: 6 Matty Mathesons out of 10
The word “Toronto” is said 29 times throughout the film, including the post credits. (Did I sit and count that? Yes. Is it important journalistic work? Obviously.) All of that name dropping is excellent PR for the city of Toronto. It’s like Tourism Toronto and Netflix had a marketing baby, except it didn’t cost us anything, which is great. Ideally, audiences across the world hear the word “Toronto” so many times they unconsciously book a trip here and spend their life savings at Ripley’s Aquarium.
At one point in the movie, there’s a gratuitous close-up of the bumper on the man from Toronto’s Dodge Charger, which reveals an Ontario licence plate. Yep, with the signature blue font, tiny crown and “Yours to Discover” on it. The plate is missing one crucial detail, though: a sticker. Did Woody forget to renew it? Doesn’t he know Doug Ford recently made it free of charge? How could the production crew on the film forget a detail so essential to the minutiae of living in modern-day Ontario?
And finally, in a scene filmed in Milton, Ontario’s parking signs are prominently displayed on the sidewalk: the “P” for “parking” encircled on a rectangular slat, set curbside atop a metal pole. The sight might offer viewers a welcome reminder of home or a bout of PTSD from remembering their unpaid tickets. It all depends on their relationship with the parking enforcement officer in their neighbourhood.
Verdict: Elements of Toronto, big and small, are prevalent in the film, making the viewer feel like it could have taken place right in their backyard. Rating: 7 Drakes out of 10
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