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.
The Boondock Saints is a perfect example of the post-Tarantino school of filmmaking. It’s got killing, cussing, and style to spare. Is it any good? Well, we’ll leave it to you to determine whether it’s a cult classic or just another B-grade action pic. (You can watch pretty much the whole darned thing on YouTube after all.)
What we can say is that it does a mostly decent job of using Toronto to play Boston…and that it has Willem Dafoe doing a crazy ass performance as a detective who seems be riffing on Gary Oldman in The Professional, but with a love of opera and some flaming homosexuality (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
So, these two Irish brothers basically kill a bunch of people on something of a vigilante tear through the Boston underworld. It’s not the most thorough plot summary but it gives you an idea.
Early on, for example, these two dudes come to kill them. They’re gonna kill the one brother in this alley behind their apartment when the other brother drops a toilet on their heads. Apparently the brothers live at Church and Queen Street East because it’s a bit hard to miss Henry’s both in this scene and the later bit when Dafoe is trying to figure out what went down. The alley appears to be the one heading west to Berti Street.
Another easily visible spot is the landmark Lakeview Lunch near Dundas and Ossington. We see a character crossing Dundas (they don’t have TD Banks or Green P lots in Boston) and heading inside the retro diner.
We learn, during the opening credits, that the boys work in a meatpacking plant. These scenes were shot at a bona fide abattoir, Corsetti Meat Packers on St. Clair West.
Throughout the film, we get helpful expositional news updates from Ms. Sally McBride. Here she is, for example, standing outside the lovely Sutton Place Hotel.
The University of Toronto is a frequent locale, but one of its more rarely seen buildings is the mining building on College Street. Here, it plays the role of a Boston police station.
The final courtroom scene was shot at Old City Hall. As every local democracy lover knows, the setting is the original council chambers, located on the second floor.
The interiors, through which we see our heroes boldly stride, were shot just downstairs. You probably recognize the halls from that failed attempt at fighting your parking tickets.
The exterior, on the other hand, was filmed a bit to the north at U of T’s Koffler Centre (thanks, Sally!).
Some bar scenes were shot at the Gladstone Hotel, and other local venues included The Courthouse lounge and 53 Fraser Avenue. The latter was once the home of Sully’s Gym, also featured in Cinderella Man.
Gentrification has wrought changes at those locations, meaning anyone who wants to recreate gritty Boston scenes here might have to look a bit harder. Luckily, as Good Will Hunting showed, we can still do “preppy Boston” when duty calls.