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Sunday October 20th 2019

Kick-Ass | 2010

Kick Ass location: County Hall, Belvedere Road, London
Kick Ass location: the entrance to D’Amico’s high rise apartment: County Hall, Belvedere Road, London

Ordinary schoolkid Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) puts on a green suit and with little more than an effort of will, transforms himself into masked vigilante Kick-Ass. The film is set in ‘New York’ but its locations are shared between London and Toronto – and Hamilton, about 35 miles west of the city.

Despite the ‘Manhattan’ skyline, the high-rise, from which the unfortunately delusional Armenian guy leaps during the opening narration, is Royal Bank Plaza, 200 Bay Street at Front Street West in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District.

Let’s get the disappointment out of the way first – you can’t pick up a graphic version of Kick-Ass from ‘Atomic Comics’, the comic store-coffee house where Dave and his friends mull over the disadvantages of being a superhero, as this was no more than a set constructed on the backlot of Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, in the UK.

The dank concrete space in which Damon Macready, aka Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), shoots his daughter, Mindy aka Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) – to get her used to a bullet proof vest – is just what it looks like. It’s one of the (currently empty) open-air tanks of Beckton Sewage Works, Beckton in East London (if you remember, Beckton gas works became ‘Vietnam’ for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket). Part of Joseph Bazalgette's grandiose Victorian scheme of sewage disposal for the capital, this is the largest sewage works in Europe. It’s, perhaps happily, not accessible to the public.

No longer accessible is All Star Lanes, where Macready Senior takes Mindy for a treat afterwards. Not just a bowling alley, but American restaurant and cocktail bar, it's since closed down (though there are other branches in London), it was part of Whiteleys Shopping Centre, the department store-turned-mega-mall – seen in Closer, Love Actually and Connecting Rooms.

Before we leave London, the entrance to the hi-rise apartment of Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) isn’t quite what it seems. There is no tower. It’s the Belvedere Road entrance to the old County Hall on the South Bank. Opened in 1922 as the headquarters of London County Council, and subsequently home to the GLC, the building now houses the Sea Life London Aquarium, hotels, restaurants and other attractions. That’s also County Hall’s art deco interior which you may previously have seen standing in for ‘CIA HQ, Langley’ in Brian De Palma’s Mission Impossible. It's on the riverside terrace in front of County Hall that Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance in his 1973 film Frenzy.

Much of the location filming is around the city of Hamilton, Ontario, on the western tip of Lake Ontario, where Dave Lizewski’s modest home is 32 Keith Street at Douglas Avenue, in the northern working-class neighbourhood of Keith.

‘Millard Fillmore High School’, where a buxom English teacher distracts the hormonal Dave from the complexities of Hamlet, is Sir William Churchill Secondary School, 1715 Main Street East, a couple of miles southeast.

The car park, seemingly behind ‘Atomic Comics’, where Dave and his friend are robbed and where Dave later confronts a couple of car thieves, is on the south side of King William Street, just west of John Street North, in Hamilton. Surprisingly, the painted Capri Pizza Spaghetti sign is real. After getting stabbed in the stomach for his troubles, Dave gets his by a car two blocks east on Mary Street at King Street East.

Recovered from his wounds, Kick Ass 2.0 finds lost cat Mr Bitey opposite Dip'n Sip Donuts, 663 Kingston Road, Upper Beaches, eastern Toronto, when he takes on three muggers. As bystanders watch and take photos, an internet phenomenon is launched and Kick Ass goes global.

D’Amico’s spoiled son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is taken to see Spirit 3 by his dad at the Scotiabank Theatre, 259 Richmond Street, in West Toronto.

Back in Toronto’s Financial District, D’Amico thinks he sees Kick-Ass walking along Richmond Street West, and follows him right onto Simcoe Street. When the green-suited figure turns into the alley on the western side of Simcoe, D’Amico puts a bullet in his head, but only manages to kill off a hapless wannabe.

Kick-Ass hooks up with Red Mist in the alleyway on the east side of James Street North, between numbers 12 and 14, where rich kid shows off his Mist-Mobile, which roars off south down Yonge Street, at Dundas Street West, and past the unmistakable double-disc sign of Sam the Record Man, 347 Yonge Street – which seems to be contractually guaranteed to appear at least once in every film shot in Toronto.

‘Safe house B’, where Big Daddy and Hit Girl are lured into a trap by Red Mist, is another location which gets more than its share of screen time. It’s on the north side of Front Street East, just east of Cherry Street in East Bayfront. Remember it as the site of the ‘Chaos Theatre’ in Scott Pilgrim vs The World?

• Many thanks to Pierre-Yves Coffin for help with this section.