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Reel Toronto: The Samaritan

A noir-ish Samuel L. Jackson vehicle doesn't pretend Toronto is someplace else.

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.

It’s a special moment, and actually kind of weird, when we watch a movie that takes place in Toronto without any attempt to dress it up as someplace else. Such is the case with The Samaritan, a Samuel L. Jackson vehicle released earlier this year that gives the city something of a noir sheen. Oh, it’s a flawed movie complete with a twist borrowed from another movie (we won’t tell you which one, because that ruins the twist!), but it’s a different kind of Toronto on film. And you can’t go wrong with the man who ensured that the Toronto Raptors (and, better still, their purple incarnation!) are forever part of the Tarantinoverse.

Amusingly, the film was initially to be called Fury, but they thought it might be wise to change that, what with Sam Jackson playing a guy named “Fury” in another flick released in 2012.

The Samaritan opens with a foreboding overhead shot of the skyline…

…and there’s a few more throughout, this one being a time-lapse that carries…

..into the night.

So, in the story, Sam Jackson is a con man fresh out of prison and living at this place, actually on Temperance Street. A gourmet burger joint seems to have moved in since the movie was shot. The way everything is framed, you’d never guess the Cloud Gardens park is next door. (Does he somehow get drawn back into the world of crime? Is there a woman involved? Are there multiple twists and betrayals before it’s all resolved? Yes, yes and duh.)

He walks by the nearby Bay Adelaide Centre.

He likes to hang out at the Silver Dollar, gabbing with bartender Gil Bellows.

You can see a bit more of the location, which gets a lot of face time, here.

Here’s the club’s rear alley (apparently called Douglas Campbell Lane), with a bit of College Street visible. But despite all that time at the bar, Sam gets around town.

He hangs out at the bus terminal

…he visits the Lakeview Restaurant

…for a conversation with co-star Luke Kirby, who has a very different scene at the same location in Take This Waltz

…and crosses Church Street

…to enter the recently shuttered Ontario Speciality Co., also seen in Good Will Hunting.

He even rides the TTC!

But he drives, too! He drives on the Gardiner…

…and in one big chase scene that goes along Front Street…

…past Simcoe Street…

…and the St. Lawrence Market…

…and the Yonge-Dundas area.

He even works a construction site with a view of the CN Tower. Nice!

One bonus aspect of movies shot in Toronto as that you get some great local actors up on screen. Like, hey, it’s Tom McCamus as a parole officer!

And it’s Martha Burns as a reformed junkie!

As part of the titular con, Jackson dresses up nicely and hangs with Debora Kara Unger at the Thompson Hotel

…and its hip, rooftop lounge…

…and its swanky restaurant, Scarpetta.

Director David Weaver has done some interesting stuff, and although The Samaritan doesn’t quite end up being Toronto’s own L.A. Confidential, we’re still willing to grant it a bunch of points for effort.

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