Damn the critics! Netflix’s new comedy The Man From Toronto topped the streamer’s weekly popularity charts despite scathing reviews.
The assassin-themed action movie, starring Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson in the lead roles, was described as “terribly bland” and “other unimaginative content” by critics ahead of its June 24 release – but that didn’t stop the film from racking up nearly 50 million hours of Netflix viewing (opens in new tab) in just two days.
According to the film’s synopsis, The Man From Toronto sees “the world’s deadliest assassin” (Harrelson) and “New York’s biggest crook” (Hart) confused for one another when the latter arrives early at a car rental. Airbnb. Naturally, chaos ensues and the duo embarks on a cat-and-mouse adventure involving cops, criminals, and car chases.
To no one’s surprise, this seemingly algorithmic premise didn’t win over critics. The film currently holds a rotten tomatoes (opens in new tab) Critics rating of just 28%, which puts it in the miserable company of other recent Netflix blockbusters, Spiderhead (42% (opens in new tab)), interceptor (44% (opens in new tab)), Red Warning (37% (opens in new tab)) and Senior Year (24% (opens in new tab)).
Interestingly, though, all five ‘Rotten’ certified movies topped Netflix’s weekly popularity rankings during their respective first few weeks of release. The last year starring Rebel Wilson, for example, amassed a staggering 62.4 million viewing hours defying its critics, who said it was “hard to imagine a more unpleasant film”.
the streamer weekly performance reports (opens in new tab)which tracks the total number of hours subscribers worldwide watch titles over a seven-day period, seems to consistently add fuel to the fire of a growing trend for Netflix: Critically panned movies seem to rake in viewers week after week. , Weekend.
Analysis: Another shallow success for Netflix?
At first glance, this doesn’t make much sense – why would audiences regularly watch 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 essence of any film’s success. As Senior Entertainment Editor Tom Goodwyn explained in his Recent defense of Netflix action epic Interceptor: Sometimes audiences just want to turn their brains off after a long day.
Not every movie needs to be Citizen Kane, and there’s nothing wrong with the occasional paint-by-numbers comedy or uninspired thriller if Netflix continues to produce award-worthy projects – Stranger Things, The Power of the Dog and so on – in other places.
What’s more, these unoriginal blockbusters seem to be doing business for the streamer. If Netflix can profit from movies that audiences are clearly engaging in en masse, it’s hard to criticize its conveyor belt approach to producing them.
On the other hand, there is the matter of choice: are Netflix subscribers – those who criticized the platform’s recent content output – only watching these films for lack of quality alternatives? Without conducting large-scale customer research, this is a difficult conundrum to crack – but the possibility certainly exists.
It also doesn’t help the cause when films like The Man from Toronto challenge their lack of quality to become – in the eyes of Netflix statisticians – hit productions. When these safe, shallow projects reach 50 million viewing hours in just two days, their success is in danger of justifying the streamer’s decision to cancel other genuinely interesting projects (like those previously under development in their animation department) that would vastly improve the quality of the service as a whole.
Still, Netflix bosses won’t complain if the company’s stock price is up, and millions of subscribers seem happy to consistently embrace its blockbusters, regardless of their position on IMDb. It’s common cheapest, ad-supported subscription tier going to streamer very soon, there could be a lot more table space for all sorts of Netflix movies and TV shows in the near future.