Reel Toronto: 16 Blocks
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Reel Toronto: 16 Blocks

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.
Well, here’s one of those generic thrillers they shoot here on a regular basis. 16 Blocks probably looked good on paper, but it’s mostly a good example of a two-star flick coming to town to save a few bucks. To its credit, they shot enough footage in New York—and used Toronto sparingly enough—that you almost wouldn’t recognize our fair streets. Almost.

Since so much was (apparently) shot in New York, where the story takes place, there aren’t any grand give-away shots of Toronto. A good example is this set piece, where the baddies come hard at target Mos Def until he’s saved by Bruce Willis (playing the drunk cop who will be redeemed before it’s all over).
See, Bruno heads into this convenience store, which looks like it might be in Manhattan. In fact, it’s a dressed-up Temperance Street. You get a good view of it in the following shots as he realizes what’s going on, and the camera does a lovely little 360…
…and you can even see the Flight Centre on the corner of Bay Street.
Some of the sequence was grabbed nearby on the equally narrow Colborne Street. This split-second shot shows the awning of the Comospolitan Hotel on the left.
…And isn’t that a Motophoto out the car window? It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s like the one at Scotiabank Plaza.
Also very easy to disguise are alleyways, and they use a good one here. This was shot in O’Keefe Lane, a grungy strip that runs parallel to Yonge across from the Eaton Centre. It was also used in Johnny Mnemonic, and you may have walked through it during last year’s Nuit Blanche when it was transformed into Domaine De L’Angle #2. (Despite being a sad, dumpster-filled alley it actually has a second name, becoming St. Enoch’s Square south of Shuter Street. St. Enoch might want to get a better PR firm…)
We usually see Lower Bay Station tricked out as some empty, creepy, post-apocalyptic train station, which makes it almost unspottable here. Only if you’re looking for it (or if you know what the actual Canal Street station looks like) would you spot it here.
That subway car doesn’t look like a standard New York vehicle either.
See, Bruce Willis is a dirtyish cop, but he’s not as dirty as these other cops, and he’s trying to make sure they don’t get to Mos Def before Willis can get him (across sixteen blocks, natch), so that Mos can tell on the dirty cops.
And that all brings them, finally, to a courthouse lobby. And, hey, ain’t that our courthouse lobby? Sho’ nuff, it’s the main floor of Old City Hall.
They also did a bit of location work in the Junction Gardens and Parkdale neighbourhoods, and that about does it for this one.