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culture

Reel Toronto: RoboCop

The pointless remake trend continues as Robocop comes to town, and Toronto takes a turn as Detroit.

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.

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Hollywood taking old films and churning out new, spiffed-up versions isn’t anything new, but Toronto seems to have become Remake City, having already hosted the likes of Total Recall and Carrie over the past few years. Surprisingly, perhaps, neither of those films was utterly terrible so much as redundant. The most common reaction was probably something along the lines of, “That was entertaining enough, but so what?” The same can probably be said for RoboCop. The original, like the first Total Recall, was directed by Paul Verhoeven and came with a certain sly anti-Reaganism amid its ultraviolence. The 2014 version has an updated and milder political stance to go with its PG-13 rating, and yet it never fails to be at least watchable. While Dallas stood in for the blasted urban streetscapes of Detroit last time around, this time we got to step up to the plate.

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It behooves us to mention that they shot not just in Toronto but also around the GTA—and the grimiest of the Detroit shots were actually done in Hamilton, which, depending on your point of view, represents either a big win for the Steel City or not a big win at all for the Steel City. Early on, for example, we get pre-robo detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and Brooklyn Nets fan Michael K. Williams getting into a big shootout at this restaurant…

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…at the end of this street. It was totally built for the production and is located at the corner of Colbourne Street and James Street North, in Hamilton.

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During one of Robo’s many motorcycle rides, he passes by the city’s industrial skyline here. (A similar supposed-to-be-Detroit view was employed in Flash of Genius.)

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There are a couple of rather important locations to which we return a few times. The first is the headquarters of the Detroit Police Department. We cut from this establishing shot…

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…to the Donelly Centre, site of one of the most prominent Toronto shoots, on College Street.

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Here’s a reverse shot from before we head outside…

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…and more from a later scene, out the side door…

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…where you can see the Med Sci building in the back…

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…and then turn around and, more obviously, see Convocation Hall.

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You want more schools? Here’s a rehab facility…

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…where Gary Oldman’s character works. It’s actually the new Athletic and Wellness Centre at Centennial College. And the guitar-playing dude with bionic hands is a guitar teacher from the Royal Conservatory of Music.

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Before getting RoboCop-ized, Murphy lives with his family in this lovely suburban house…

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….on Calder Road, in Mississauga. We could spend all day pulling shots from Murphy’s motorcycle travels. This is just him cruising on Calder to visit his house…

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…but city shots often have overlays as he does his robo thing. Here you can see downtown flying by under shots of his kid at school. The latter were among the first things shot for the movie, also in Mississauga, at Mineola P.S.

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What else can we spot? How about this Future Shop, just off the Gardiner?

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He zips around downtown, driving past Clinton Street (he was spotted on this stretch of nearby Jersey Avenue, too)…

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…and has a bit of skyline behind him here after turning onto Adelaide…

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…and down Jarvis

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…past Richmond

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…and Adelaide, as just a few examples. (They also shot on and around Victoria Street, and if you go back up to that very first shot, it appears to be from the alleys behind Massey Hall.)

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One key set piece is this training sequence…

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…in which our hero takes on a bunch of robots in an abandoned industrial space…

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…it’s the eminently recognizable and photogenic Hearn Generating Station, seen in a kajillion things, including Pacific Rim and RED.

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Sometimes you get a location that just drives you crazy, man. Here we are in an alley…

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…and then in this cool little restaurant in the alley, and it’s got, like, this goat picture on the wall, and is it here? Is it in Hamilton? No, it’s in Vancouver—it was a little Gastown joint (since closed) called Judas Goat.

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It’s pretty rare to see a movie that shoots in each of our competing Hollywood Norths (it’s usually one or the other), but RoboCop grabbed some Vancouver shots as well. This street scene, for example, is on Granville, at Dunsmuir

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…and Robo motors past Dunn’s Tailors, also on Granville

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…and the big finale fight…

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…is actually in Vancouver’s Convention Centre.

And, hey, we’re just ordinary taxpaying joes like you, folks—not members of the champagne-sipping Hollywood elite—so we don’t know precisely what went down behind the scenes. However, it’s pretty clear from poking around that a lot of this Vancouver stuff came from late additions, likely because the studio was trying to amp up the ending.

There was a big night shoot on Corus Quay, outside George Brown College, that was supposed to be part of the ending, and it’s entirely absent. You can see some bits and pieces of what was shot here and here, however.

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Did we mention Raptors fan Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie? Because he is!

We played Detroit rather unconvincingly in Exit Wounds and surprisingly well in Narc, and RoboCop falls squarely in the middle. So, hey, maybe they’ll come back again. There could be a sequel or another remake some day! Why, just last week the man himself threw out the first pitch at a game between the Jays and Tigers, and though he isn’t exactly Mark Buherle, we suspect that’s only because his programming couldn’t figure out whether his loyalties actually lay with Detroit, or with the city that played it oh so well.

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