Reel Toronto: Red
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Reel Toronto: Red

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.
Do you know what makes life difficult for Reel Toronto? If a film is too old or too new to find reliable information, or if it has a generic name like “Red” that makes it similarly impossible.
That said, we’re always happy to watch a film that doesn’t totally suck, and while Red is no classic, it does have Helen Mirren shooting off mega-guns (and, quite frankly, Helen Mirren Shoots Really Big Guns might have been a better name).
It also has Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Richard Dreyfuss, and John Malkovich having a blast—even if it’s not career best work for any of them. It’s undeniably entertaining in spots, and even more undeniably shot in Toronto.
Red was nominated for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes alongside fare such as, um, The Tourist and Burlesque. So, you know it’s at least that good. And they’ve just announced they’re doing a sequel, so just sit back and enjoy.

So, Red is about these retired secret agents and it’s set up as a road movie, but aside from a few little bits they shot in New Orleans it’s all GTA, baby. Some it is super obvious, like this Fairmont hotel that is pretty recognizable as being not in Chicago.
They also shot the exterior entrance…
…and out on Front Street.
In addition to the exteriors, they also shot in the ballroom…
…and lobby.
When they go out into the parking structure it’s pretty clearly the huge Green P lot off the Esplanade.
Also pretty obviously not in Chicago is this building here.
Staying downtown, here’s John Malkovich going all wacky at a TD Centre alley.
In this reverse shot you can see the Royal Bank tower across the street.
At the start of the film, Bruce Willis is a retired spook living in Cleveland. This kind of housing isn’t very common in Toronto, but it’s even less common now. Once constructed by the military for people at CFB Downsview, and then the military college, residents of the William Baker neighbourhood were given the boot last year, shortly after filming.
Apparently this is all part of a two hundred-year plan to turn the base into a park or something.
The house gets shredded in a big, ol’ action scene and some nearby residents didn’t get the memo about the guns and stuff and wondered what the heck was going on.
The heroes track down bad dude Richard Dreyfuss at this mansion. Keen observers of the cinema might recognize it as the haunted house from Cold Creek Manor. In reality, it’s the estate at Cruickston Park, in Cambridge. The homey interior is a set.
Speaking of homey, Helen Mirren’s B&B is down in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a private estate on the Niagara Parkway.
Other remote scenes were shot in Uxbridge and in Brampton’s Claireville Conservation Area.
According to the glass on this elevator we’re now in New York. Of course, any Torontonian who’s made it out of high school knows this is the Toronto Reference Library.
We also have our own Chinatown passing for New York’s.
And now we’re in Washington, D.C. In one of the more creative location uses we’ve seen, the courtyard outside the University Avenue courthouse
…is transformed into the foreboding entrance of the Russian embassy. In the background you can see the City Hall towers, again.
And the final scenes take place in a wonderful industrial wasteland. Yep, for all the recent talk over what the city should do about the Hearn Generating Station no one has mentioned its crucial role in the city’s cinematic history. Shame!
Part of Reel Toronto’s raison d’être is to hate on films that poorly disguise the city in order to save a few bucks, but Red—which shot here between January and March last year—actually does a pretty good job. It’s also one of the bigger Hollywood productions Toronto has seen, though it looks like that Total Recall remake is poised to take the prize in that category pretty soon.