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Reel Toronto: Kick-Ass

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
Kick-Ass does so many things right (conceding it’s an acquired taste!) that we at Reel Toronto feel bad picking on the one thing it does wrong: pretending Toronto is New York.
In fairness to the filmmakers, you’d never guess this movie was made for only thirty-five million dollars. In addition to using Toronto they shot a lot in London, England, making it awfully hard to to tell what was shot where at times.

The opening shot is a beaut, panning down from this obviously-it’s-New-York skyline…
…to this dude, very clearly standing on top of the golden RBC building, at Wellington and Bay.
When it cuts to the crowd cheering below, you can even see Old City Hall up the street.

In an easy-to-spot early scene, several of the characters go to check out a movie at the Scotiabank, with its very distinctive escalator visible here.

One of the key scenes is Kick-Ass taking on a bunch of bad dudes outside a doughnut shop. Yeah, that’d be the Dip ‘n Sip out on Kingston Road.
Speaking of doughnut shops, it is true that there are now Tim Hortons outlets in Manhattan, but not this one. After spending hours we’ll never get back scouring Google Maps, we concluded that this is the one on Richmond, just west of University.

Here we have a great scene where Kick-Ass and his new pal, Red Mist, go cruising through Manhattan in the Mistmobile, and there’s a later drive with Hit Girl as well. There are several shots of the real Times Square but after a second you clue in that the majority of shots are on the Yonge-Dundas strip. Hey, ain’t that the Eaton Centre?
And Pier One Imports?
And the Dundas Square Hard Rock?
And both Sam the Record Man and HMV? Watch out the window, and watch the reflections on the windshield, and you’ll also see Winners, Roots, Payless Shoes, and other non-NYC stores.
The school the kids attend is just out of town, at Hamilton’s Sir Winston Churchill S.S..
Also in Hamilton is this parking lot in which Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked. It’s just off Main Street, on a stretch that gets used for a lot of shoots.
We were sure this bowling alley had to be here but, amazingly, it’s the All Star Lanes in London.
But, back to Toronto, Kick-Ass’s pals get lured into a trap at this remote location, out on Front Street East. You can see the shuttered Canary Grill as well as the skyline, hanging in the background.
Speaking of the skyline, you get a lovely view of the financial district when Kick-Ass runs on a rooftop, testing his jumping prowess, or lack thereof.
And how about the finale? Kick-Ass and Hit Girl take a jet pack ride through a “New York” that includes Roy Thomson Hall…
…and Queen’s Park, as they cruise up the length of University Avenue. Obviously Torontonians go, “Hey, that’s Queen Park!” but don’t you figure anyone who has ever been to or lived in New York thinks, “Hey, I don’t remember seeing a huge building like that…yeah, I think I’d remember it”?

UPDATE: OCTOBER 4, 2013: We previously added in the comments, but not to the actual article, a shot of the Scotiabank theatre after several commenters correctly noted the omission. Thanks to everyone for pointing out, it’s there now.


  • Ryan D

    There’s also a shot of the gangster & his son walking into the Scotiabank Theatre – making this the first time I’d ever seen the theatre I was in appear in the movie I was watching.

  • http://undefined Robsonian

    makes ya think….

  • David Fleischer

    You’re totally right on that – it got lost in the big pile of screencaps I had from this but I’ll add it here later.

  • thelemur

    you’ll also see Winners, Roots, Payless Shoes, and other non-NYC stores
    Um, there are at least a dozen Payless stores in Manhattan alone. And apparently two Roots outlets as well.

  • http://undefined Miles Storey

    Tons of Toronto in this fun film!
    The shot of him on the roof, in front of the downtown skyline, is above the Queen St alleyway where it meets Bathurst. The building on the left is the old Big Bop club.

  • http://undefined CanadianSkeezix

    I’ve decided that people who start their comments with “um” is my new internet pet peeve (so unnecessarily patronizing), replacing the duo of “fail!” and “epic fail!”.

  • http://undefined Jason

    “Safe House B” in the movie was in this condo building on Dundas East, and the room that scene was shot in may very well have been this condo.
    I was there with my real estate agent checking it out 2 days before I saw the film. It was surreal. We parked right where the characters parked their car.

  • http://undefined Ashley

    Kick-Ass DVD & Blu-Ray Specs Revealed, Plus A Special Feature Sneak Peek!

  • thelemur

    Have you? How interesting.
    I suppose you could pretend I hadn’t started it that way. My comment still stands: Payless is definitely not a ‘non-NYC store’; Roots has two stores in Manhattan. Therefore it’s the other outlets that give away the fact that it’s Toronto.

  • http://undefined Kevin

    What a great and amazing series! I was looking forward to hearing more about this movie and Torontoist didn’t disappoint me!

  • David Fleischer

    Here is the Scotiabank Theatre entrance, with the oh-so-famous escalator visible in the back.

  • David Topping

    I think the idea is that what is “non-NYC” are these specific, individual stores on Yonge Street—not that the companies don’t have other locations, but that the Roots, etc., you see in the film are most definitely not in New York.

  • thelemur

    But Yonge here is standing in for a generic, non-specific NYC street that might have a Payless on it, or a Roots (less likely), but definitely not a Winners or a Future Shop. Viewers can suspend disbelief for Payless and will generally ignore unfamiliar brands.

  • David Fleischer

    I’m smiling a bit at the semantics here. I apologize for not being more specific in my language but you’re wrong that it’s supposed to be a generic strip.
    If you watch the scene in context they are very clearly supposed to be cruising through Times Square and some shots of Times Square are mixed in.
    We agree there is neither a Winners, nor a Future Shop there. Neither is Roots in Times Square, and a quick check indicates there isn’t a Payless right there either.
    So the point was merely that once you’ve spotted Eaton Centre or Pier One or any other places it’s very easy to also start going, “Oh, I know which Payless outlet that is!”

  • thelemur

    It’s my fault for missing the Times Square references in your analysis. Sorry.

  • http://undefined Thomas

    Close – the rooftop on the left is the Burroughes Building, one east of the Bop.

  • Anonymous

    What about the movie theater at Richmond and John?

  • Anonymous


  • Jane Jacobs

    Also not very obvious but I noticed it because it’s behind my Dad’s work building, the scene where the kick ass impersonator is killed by the bad guy is in this alley on Simcoe between Richmond and Queen:,+Toronto,+ON&hl=en&ll=43.650217,-79.387234&spn=0.002108,0.005284&sll=43.64967,-79.389567&sspn=0.004215,0.010568&t=h&hnear=230+Richmond+St+W,+Toronto,+Toronto+Division,+Ontario+M5V+1V6&z=18&layer=c&cbll=43.650331,-79.387274&panoid=9D_8hj7JsjjYyNeYyK6tUw&cbp=12,240.4,,0,1.64