Reel Toronto: Bulletproof Monk
Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. Now. Click here to learn more.




Reel Toronto: Bulletproof Monk

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.
There are people in Hollywood whose names you don’t know, even though they make far more money than you will ever see. These people come up with ideas like: “How about we make a movie that puts one of the world’s greatest martial arts stars together with Stifler! Then Stifler can do crazy kung-fu and the other guy can do comedy! It’s perfect!”
And having conceived of something as brilliant as Bulletproof Monk, they then must justify their salaries and standing by figuring out how to keep such a gargantuan idea within a reasonable budget. The only choice it to head north and bring the thunder to Toronto.
Yeah, we know it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheekish, and it’s based on one of those underground comics, but Scott Pilgrim this ain’t.

So, Chow Yun Fat is this magical, immortal monk guy and Stifler (a.k.a. Seann William Scott) is this petty thief who (gasp!) turns out to be the Chosen One, or something. There, now you don’t have to watch it. If you did, you’d see that (following a way over-CGI’ed opening in Tibet) it gets started with a long sequence filmed at the Bloor-Yonge subway station. They shot downstairs…
…and upstairs.
If you’re a fan of our subway cars, you’ll be happy to know this film also includes a rave-type scene in one of the cars…
…and a shot of goons hanging out in front of what looks like a streetcar convention.
Then the baddies give chase, showing they’re on King Street, in front of the TD Centre.
We get to see a bit of the TD Centre at the end too.
Then we start moving into the “plot,” which starts at this museum that is clearly Old City Hall. We see it from out front…
…and from within the courtyard.
The interior isn’t City Hall and, frankly, it stumped us a bit. The smoky lighting doesn’t help, but we’re not sure this part was shot in an existing location, at least in Toronto. Actually, it turns out to be just a bit down the QEW, at Hamilton’s beautiful old Bank of Montreal building, today home to fancy law offices.
On that note, a mea culpa. Even we at Reel Toronto are not perfect, and sometimes we stare and stare at something until we realize we just have no idea where it is. The movie theatre where Stifler works and practises his martial arts moves seems like it should be here, but maybe not. The reverse colouring on the parking sign compared to ours suggests this just ain’t in Hogtown, especially in combo with that light fixture. We leave it to you, good readers.
Back on track, we pan down from this skyline shot…
…to find Chow Yun Fat standing in this parking lot. It’s a bit hard to tell, but it looks like it’s likely the parking lot that is now occupied by the Bell Lightbox.
Far easier to spot was this scene, at Nathan Phillips Square.
You can even see the Sheraton Centre, across the street.
Then there’s a chase, and they dash across Queen Street
…and end up on Sheppard Street, which dead-ends on the south side of the Sheraton. We saw this same stretch, and that parking lot, in Owning Mahowny.
The chase continues into what seems like a Chinatown back-alley, but it’s actually (ta da!) the Distillery. You can see the Stone Distillery back there.
There’s a climactic fight on the roof of a warehouse, and it looks like it’s the old Loblaws warehouse, at the foot of Bathurst Street and Lake Shore Boulevard. Apparently it’s going to be fixed up, sooner or later.
You can see it at ground level here.
At the end they head to this mansion and, wouldn’t you know, it’s Parkwood Estate, which is in almost every movie filmed in Toronto. You see it outside…
…and in.
So, there you go. It’s actually a pretty good movie… if, that is, your main criteria is how obviously it’s not really filmed in New York City.

UPDATE: October 4, 2013: We originally wrote that we couldn’t identify of the location portrayed as the interior of Old City Hall. Thanks to “LauraF_Hamilton” and others, we’ve since identified it as that city’s old Bank of Montreal building; we’ve corrected it above.