Suicide Squad | 2016
David Ayer has directed some fine, dark moody pictures but after the unexpected wobble of Batman v Superman, the studio panicked and Suicide Squad gets lost trying to please too many demographics. Unlike Avengers, it doesn’t have a pre-existing series of films to set up its characters and the kitschy, campy Temple-of-Doom Enchantress thing belongs in a whole different movie.
Despite the big aerial flyover, as the Squad heads into the city later in the movie, which is recognisably Chicago, the production was based at Pinewood Toronto Studios, Port Lands in Toronto, and that city supplies most of the exterior locations for the setting of ‘Midway City’.
Ignore the digitally added Capitol dome, the opening scene of Waller (Viola Davis) briefing her sceptical colleagues on her roster of scuzzy prisoners was filmed in Los Angeles – for a Toronto-based production, this is usually a sign of last-minute re-shoots.
A bunch of flashbacks helpfully introduces the team of reprobates.
Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot (Will Smith), the most wanted hitman in the world, is carrying out a hit from the roof of 151 Front Street West, behind Union Station, alongside the huge Simcoe Place complex. After carrying out the hit, he swiftly rappels from the roof down to Station Street.
Once back to his everyday family life, Lawton Christmas shops with his daughter outside a ‘department store’, which is the Lumsden Building, 2-6 Adelaide Street at Yonge Street, now housing HSBC. As the pair turns into the narrow Ching Lane alongside the Lumsden, Deadshot is apprehended by Batman (Ben Affleck).
The nightclub in which Joker (Jared Leto) demonstrates his devotion to Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) by offering her to pierced’n’tatted gangsta Monster T (Common) before shooting him, is the swanky black and gold interior of Cube, 314 Queen Street West.
Chased by the Batmobile, Joker and Harley roar south along Yonge Street from Dundas Street, past ‘Johnnie’s Café’ (a thinly-disguised Hard Rock Café, since closed), ‘Milo’s Blues Café’ (the Elephant & Castle) toward the Ed Mirvish Theatre, until Joker’s flashy pink custom car plunges into the bay.
Once in custody, the varied ne'er-do-wells are carted off to ‘Belle Reve Special Security Barracks’ in ‘Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana’. The airstrip and prison grounds are Toronto/Buttonville Municipal Airport, 2833 16th Avenue, Markham, bordering Richmond Hill, 18 miles north of downtown Toronto.
The brainchild of one Fred F Gillies in 1953, Buttonville has been an official airport since 1962 but recently it’s been struggling with financial problems. It’s still hanging on in there so hopefully the location fee helps out.
The plot gets a bit loopy once the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) appears Somehow she manages to release her supernatural brother who immediately takes possession of the body of a hapless businessman in ‘Midway City’s’ subway system.
The establishing shot, as you can clearly see, is Downsview Station, which has since been renamed Sheppard West Station, but most of the action in ‘Central Station’ uses Toronto’s Lower Bay Station.
Below the main platform for Bay Station is an abandoned platform, Lower Bay, and the tracks leading to it still exist and are now used to train new operators, to move trains between the two current lines and, most importantly, to allow filming in the subway without disrupting public service.
The station has been modified several times to make it look like a typical North American subway station. In fact, the TTC once had an elaborate pre-built set for converting it to a 'New York' station but this was torn down due to safety concerns. Other movies shot at Lower Bay include Guillermo Del Toro's Mimic, Johnny Mnemonic with Keanu Reeves, The Recruit, Bulletproof Monk, the 2012 remake of Total Recall and of course, Shazam!
The Enchantress and her brother set up their world-dominating empire in ‘Midway City Train Terminal’, the exterior of which is Union Station, 65 Front Street West. There’s lot of action here so the station’s Grand Concourse had to be recreated in Pinewood Toronto Studios.
The station was previously seen in 1976 comedy thriller Silver Streak and 1995 sci-fi Johnny Mnemonic again.
As the team heads to ‘Midway City’ to counter a ‘terror attack’, this is where the flyover shot reveals the city to be Chicago, with the Chicago River and its many bridges.
But when their ‘copter comes under fire, it comes down on Yonge-Dundas Square, with downtown Toronto’s recognisable Eaton Centre mall, impenetrably disguised as the ‘Elliot Center’.
As they walk toward York Street on Piper Street between the branch of Tim Hortons coffee shop and the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) convinces Slipknot (Adam Beach) that the story about explosive devices planted in the neck is nothing more than ‘mind games’.
When Slipknot makes a bid for freedom outside Bardi’s Steak House on the narrow alley of Heenan Place, he finds to his cost that, no, it’s not a bluff.
The remaining team members head on down Heenan Place, but when they battle the wibbly-wobbly yet crunchy carbonised people, the facing blank wall reveals this to be an elaborate studio set.
Harley takes the opportunity to lift a handbag from the window of high-end store ‘Paris Ready’, which is sadly short of handbags. Beneath the dressing, it's Holt Renfrew Men, 100 Bloor Street West on the corner of Bellair Street.
Walking west along Bloor Street away from the carnage, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) promises Deadshot a fresh start.
Almost immediately, they’re heading north on Yonge Street between Grosvenor and Breadalbane Streets, past the tail-piece of a crashed plane, where the team is told that there mission is to rescue a mysterious unnamed person from the top of the ‘target building’, digitally placed at the north end of Yonge.
By the way, the whole east side of this stretch of Yonge Street has since been demolished.
This target is the ‘John F Ostrander Federal Building’ (a nod to John Ostrander, writer of the original Suicide Squad comic strip), which turns out to be the entrance to MaRS Discovery District, 661 University Avenue, at College Street. Nothing to do with space exploration – it’s a medical research facility and MaRS originally stood for Medical and Related Sciences.
A quick flashback of pre-Harley psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel on her motorbike catching up with Joker is filmed on Lakeshore Boulevard under the Gardiner Expressway, a location often seen in David Cronenberg’s movies.
It transpires that the whole exercise is a cynical set-up by Waller, though it goes terribly wrong. Joker attempts to rescue Harley from the building’s roof but his ‘copter is shot down and in the ensuing chaos Waller’s escape ‘copter is also downed, ending up in front of the Royal Bank Plaza, Bay Street south of Wellington.
Harley survives intact, to be discovered by the rest of the team sitting happily atop a cop car in front of First Canadian Place.
Realising they’ve been set up, the squad retires to the ‘Golden Tree’ for a well-deserved drink. The exterior of this bar is Ki, 181 Bay Street, a modern Japanese bar at Wellington Street, beneath the Brookfield Place complex.
The quirky interior is Weslodge, 480 King Street West at Spadina Avenue, a decidedly cool new restaurant bar. The illuminated bar top was added for the film but the walls of this bar are hung with taxidermy trophies and antique portraits.
Inspired by Rick Flag’s sob-story and, frankly, with nothing better to do, the squad rallies on Bloor Street to do battle with the Enchantress.
As they face off in the station concourse, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) takes to his natural environment in the flooded station which, as you can clearly see, is the exterior of Toronto’s Bay Station again, on Bay Street.
It’s all a bit of a mess and you’re left feeling that the Squad might have been better established with a more grounded villain.