Reel Toronto: John Q
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Reel Toronto: John Q

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.

Hey, it’s a parable about the need for socialized medicine starring Denzel Washington. What’s not to like? Obviously something, since John Q didn’t exactly tear up the box office. Roger Ebert pulls no punches, saying he’s down with its message while describing it as “so earnest, so overwrought and so wildly implausible that it begs to be parodied.” The New York TimesElvis Mitchell similarly said “it is a remarkable document, so ham-fisted that it sabotages its own worthwhile arguments.”
Well, we’ll try not to be too harsh.
See, there’s this dude and his kid is sick and insurance won’t cover it so he takes people hostage in a hospital to make a point. It’s kinda like Dog Day Afternoon, but shot in Toronto and without any classic “Attica! Attica!” scenes. It doesn’t use a lot of Toronto locations, but what they do use, they use extensively.

The film is supposed to be taking place in Chicago but they do a decent job cutting from a shot like this one…
…to this shot of Whitney Block, the provincial tower which houses the office of the Premier and other big mucky mucks. The shot continues to pan down…
…to the emergency room and streetscape, which is the film’s main setting. If a dude is going to take over a hospital, you need a hospital! The interior is a set but the exterior—used for lots of scenes—is the province’s Hepburn Block building on Grosvenor Street. It’s anything but ironic that the building happens to house the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
(On the other hand it is ironic that, according to IMDB, the movie shoot blocked access to the actual admissions area for Women’s College Hospital across the street.)
This hallway is in the same office complex and has been in a lot of films, including The Recruit.
We get lots of shots like this, where the police, press and crowd mass outside. Is there a point in this movie when someone with a sniper rifle yells, “Take the shot!”? Does the pregnant woman in the ER go into labour? Is there a conflict between an understanding cop and a brash superior who loves the spotlight? Come on. What do you think?!
This fancy-shmancy courtroom is in the big ol’ courthouse at 361 University Avenue.
Before driving to the big city hospital, we do catch some purty shots of the factory in which Denzel works. These were grabbed at the Babcock & Wilcox plant in Cambridge.
Denzel’s family lives out in farm country but they apparently had to go all the way to Canmore, Alberta, to capture the look of rural Illinois.
And just when you forget you’ve been in Toronto almost the whole time, the film’s final shot is of a police car driving down Bay Street, complete with Old City Hall at the end of the road, a TTC bus coming at us, and a Wheel-Trans bus crossing the street. Brings a tear to your eye, eh?