New Netflix comedy defies critical mauling to hit number one in the charts

Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson in The Man from Toronto
(Image credit: Netflix)

Critics be damned! New Netflix comedy The Man From Toronto has shot to the top of the streamer’s weekly popularity charts, despite scathing reviews.  

The assassin-themed action flick, which stars Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles, was described as "dreadfully unfunny" and “another unimaginative piece of content” by critics ahead of its release on June 24 – but that hasn’t stopped the movie racking up almost 50 million Netflix viewing hours in just two days. 

As per the film's synopsis, The Man From Toronto sees "the world's deadliest assassin" (Harrelson) and "New York's biggest screw-up" (Hart) mistaken for one another when the latter arrives early to an Airbnb rental. Naturally, chaos ensues, and the pair embark on a cat-and-mouse adventure involving cops, criminals and car chases.

To nobody’s surprise, that seemingly algorithmic premise didn’t win over reviewers. The movie currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes critics rating of just 28%, which puts it in the miserable company of other recent Netflix blockbusters Spiderhead (42%), Interceptor (44%), Red Notice (37%) and Senior Year (24%).

Interestingly, though, all five certified ‘Rotten’ flicks made it to the summit of Netflix’s weekly popularity rankings during their respective first weeks of release. The Rebel Wilson-starring Senior Year, for instance, racked up a whopping 62.4 million viewing hours in defiance of its critics, who claimed it was "hard to imagine a more unpleasant movie.”

The streamer’s weekly performance reports, which track the total number of hours that subscribers around the world watch titles in a seven-day period, appear to consistently add fuel to the fire of a growing trend for Netflix: critically-lambasted movies seem to rake in the viewers week-in, week-out. 

Analysis: another shallow success for Netflix?

On the surface, that doesn’t make much sense – why would audiences regularly turn out for terrible movies? – but there are several logical reasons why the likes of The Man From Toronto and Senior Year have performed so well for the streamer. 

The most obvious is the question of taste: critical reactions are not the be-all and end-all of any movie’s success. As TechRadar’s Senior Entertainment Editor, Tom Goodwyn, explained in his recent defence of panned Netflix action epic Interceptor: sometimes, audiences just want to switch off their brains after a long day. 

Elsa Pataky in Interceptor

Elsa Pataky stars as a no-nonsense army officer in the critically-maligned Interceptor (Image credit: Netflix)

Not every movie has to be Citizen Kane, and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional paint-by-numbers comedy or uninspired thriller if Netflix continues to produce awards-worthy projects – Stranger Things, The Power of the Dog and so on – elsewhere.

What’s more, these unoriginal blockbusters seem to be doing the business for the streamer. If Netflix can profit from movies that audiences are clearly engaging with en masse, it’s hard to criticize its conveyor belt approach to producing them. 

On the other hand, there’s the question of choice: are Netflix subscribers – those who have so openly criticized the platform’s recent content output – only watching these movies because of a lack of quality alternatives? Without conducting a large-scale customer survey, this is a difficult conundrum to unravel – but the possibility is certainly there. 

It also doesn’t help the cause when movies like The Man From Toronto defy their lack of quality to become – in the eyes of Netflix’s statisticians – successful productions. When these safe, shallow projects rake in 50 million viewing hours in just two days, their success risks justifying the streamer’s decision to cancel other genuinely interesting projects (like those previously in development at its animation department) that would immeasurably improve the quality of the service as a whole. 

Still, Netflix bosses won’t be complaining if the company’s stock price is on the up, and millions of subscribers seem happy to consistently embrace its blockbusters irrespective of their IMDb standing. And with a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tier heading to the streamer very soon, there could be much more room at the table for all types of Netflix movies and TV shows in the near future. 

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.