Reel Toronto: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
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Reel Toronto: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

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.
Fans of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 are presumably split between those who favour the 1974 Walter Matthau-Robert Shaw classic and the surprisingly good Denzel Washington-John Travolta remake, from 2009. But where’s the love for the 1998 version?
What do you mean you never heard of it? It actually has some serious acting credentials, with Vincent D’Onofrio as the bad guy, Edward James Olmos as the good guy and a supporting cast that includes Lorraine Bracco and Richard Schiff. But one thing both feature films have going for them is the degree to which they ooze New York. You can’t say the same for this TV movie version that, naturally, was shot in Toronto. On the other hand, it does have a score by a dude named Stewart Copeland.
Amusingly, the 2009 remake went with “1 2 3” instead of “One Two Three” for the title, in case reading all those words was tricky. But this version is a bit of a rarity.

We don’t even have to tell you the main reason it was easy for them to shoot here, do we? It’s our own, always-ready-for-a-filmshoot Lower Bay Station. Man, they worked this puppy. Apparently they also shot at St. Andrew and Museum, but during the opening it sure looks like they have Bay doing double duty as the 28th Street…
…and 51st Street stations. Amazing the difference hanging up some different numbers makes…not. And, hey, look up there. It’s Donnie Wahlberg! We wonder if we’ll see his bad ass again.
Indeed, most of the film takes place on our very own, soon-to-be-retired TTC subway cars. It looks so hugely un–New York it’s amazing they even tried, but that’s Hollywood for you. As you can see, it’s number 5842. Everything you could possibly want to know about her and her fellow Camshaft Control Hawkers is here. According to Wikipedia, the car, along with another they used, was retired and sent for scrap shortly after the shoot.
The film doesn’t go above ground too often, and when it does the shots tend to be frenetic, tightly framed, and otherwise difficult to really pin down. This one, however, is pretty easy: it’s Olmos and Bracco, with Commerce Court behind them, on Melinda Street.
Dolled up to look like a New York subway entrance is what appears to be this King Station entrance.
When we see the cops set up outside in the daytime it looks like they’re probably by these buildings, at Yonge and Adelaide streets.
There’s also a big chase scene where the police are rushing to get money down to where the bad guys are. Even Michael Bay might have needed some Dramamine to recognize any Toronto scenery going by, due to the way this thing is shot, but we did recognize these garages as the cops turn from Richmond onto Peter.
And the Toronto landmarks featured here aren’t only buildings. Like, look, it’s super-actor Kenneth Welsh!
And, kids, ask your parents how much they loved Seeing Things and star Louis Del Grande! (You also might recognize him as the dude whose head blew up real good in Scanners. It’s only, like, the most famous Cronenberg thing ever!)
So, the 1998 Taking of Pelham One Two Three is hardly lacking talent and, generally speaking, it was a pleasant surprise…if you can find it.