RED | 2010
Although this unexpectedly enjoyable thriller seems to flit around the USA, it was made almost entirely in the environs of Toronto, Ontario, apart from a brief visit to New Orleans.
Bruce Willis is ex-CIA operative Frank Moses classed as RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) whose quiet retirement is rudely disrupted when he discovers somebody wants to retire him more permanently.
His wood-frame home, which gets shot to bits by a covert “wet team” is supposedly ’39 Lawndale Drive, Parma Heights, Ohio’. In fact, it was 39 Robert Woodhead Crescent, North York in Toronto. The house was part of a Canadian Forces estate and, conveniently, due for demolition so there’s nothing to see here.
Teaming up with a very reluctant pensions officer, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), with whom he’s been enjoying one of those autumn-spring flirtations beloved by movie scriptwriters who need to include a younger female lead, Frank takes off and checks them both into the Capri Motel, which stood at 2424 Tulane Avenue, Mid-City, New Orleans. It’s another lost site, demolished in 2016 after having acquired a dubious reputation.
He's in the Big Easy to enlist assistance from old CIA buddy Joe (Morgan Freeman), comfortably ensconced in the ‘Green Springs Rest Home’. This is St Vincent’s Guest House, 1507 Magazine Street in the Garden District, a one-time orphanage dating from 1861, and quite possibly haunted.
It’s tough to keep anything from the CIA, in the movies at least, and Frank’s every movement is being tracked by ambitious agent – there’s always one – Frank Cooper (Karl Urban).
Fleeing the motel with Sarah, through New Orleans's French Quarter, their stolen police car is rammed by Cooper as they get to the junction of North Peters Street and Conti Street at Bienville Place.
Quick thinking Frank uses the police radio to set up Cooper to get arrested, as he reaches Ursulines Avenue at Royal Street, a few blocks to the north.
Frank and Sarah now head to New York to speak to the mother of a murdered NY Times reporter who had been on the track of a sinister conspiracy. Her address is in Chinatown but what we see is not Manhattan’s Chinatown but Toronto’s, with upper stories added digitally.
Supposedly on ‘New York’s Baxter Street’, Mrs Chan’s store is 456 Dundas Street West at Huron Street.
Likewise, when a post card received from the reporter is found to bear a book reference number, the ‘NYC Downtown Campus Library’ in which Frank and Sarah search for the volume is not 'Columbia University' at all but the very distinctive modern Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street in Yorkville.
The book turns out to contain a list of names of operatives connected to an old CIA operation in Guatemala, most of whom have recently died.
From here, the next stop is ‘Pensacola, Florida’ to enlist the, justifiably as it turns out, paranoid Marvin Boggs (scene stealing John Malkovich) at his off-grid lakeside hideaway, which was filmed not in the Sunshine State but on an estate in Hammond, Louisiana.
To contact one of the few the remaining living people on the hitlist, they now travel on to ‘Mobile, Alabama’.
The rail station at which they arrive is New Orleans’ Union Passenger Terminal, 1001 Loyola Avenue, which goes some way to explaining why an Alabama station contains that striking mural celebrating the history of Louisiana.
The explosive shoot-out, with the seemingly innocent woman from the rail station, among the maze of shipping containers, is the Port of New Orleans, on the Mississippi River alongside the Central Business District.
Surviving this, Frank drives them to the ‘Russian Federation’ building, where he needs to ask a big favour from his one-time cold war opponent Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox).
The ‘Russian embassy’ is the Toronto Courthouse, 361 University Avenue, Downtown Toronto, where Frank parks alongside on Osgoode Lane. You can see the South Wing's very distinctive circular covered entrance just to the west on University Avenue itself.
There’s still one more member of the team to recruit – ace killer Victoria (Helen Mirren), who's quietly running a charming guest house, ‘Eagle’s Nest’, in ‘Chesapeake, Maryland’.
Inviting as the mansion looks, unfortunately you can’t stay here. It’s the Glencairn Mansion, 14795 Niagara Parkway, on the Niagara River waterfront at Service Road 53, north of Queenston in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and it’s a private home.
It’s becoming clear to the team that one name on the hit-list has remained suspiciously unharmed. It’s time to visit shady businessman Dunning (Richard Dreyfuss).
His high-security sort-of-mock-Tudor red brick mansion is Cruickston Park, North Dumfries, Cambridge, Ontario. It was a summer home built in 1858 for the English-born Matthew Wilks. This was previously featured in Mike Figgis's 2003 Cold Creek Manor, with Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone.
The team manages to learn from Dunning that the prime mover behind the wave of killings is Vice President Stanton (Julian McMahon) who, now running for President, is covering up a dirty little secret back in Guatemala.
Rumbled, they manage to escape but lose Sarah, who’s captured by the CIA.
Their desperate plan is now to take out Stanton at his glitzy fundraiser being held in 'Chicago’s Fairmont Hotel'.
Don’t let the tricksy aerial shot fool you. The pan down from Chicago’s John Hancock Center seamlessly blends into a view of Toronto’s Hotel Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front Street, which stands in Old Toronto directly opposite Union Station.
The ‘Gala’, being held in the Royal York’s white-and-gilt Concert Hall, is easily infiltrated by the team of old pros.
A faked alarm sends guests into a panic and Stanton and his security guys are hurriedly spirited out of the back entrance, only to be greeted by the sight of Marvin wearing a suicide vest, hurtling toward them in full-on psycho mode. Enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone.
This sidestreet really is behind the Royal York. It’s Piper Street, just east of York Street. This is the same stretch of road where Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) convinces Slipknot (Adam Beach) that the story about explosive devices planted in the neck is nothing more than ‘mind games’ in DC’s 2016 Suicide Squad.
Panicked, Stanton leaps into the waiting car he assumes has arrived to whisk him to safety, only to realise it’s being driven by Frank.
Frank drives off to ‘Evanston Power Plant’ to set up the exchange of VP Stanton for Sarah. The deserted plant, where the final confrontation is played out, is the familiar decommissioned Richard L Hearn Generating Station, 440 Unwin Avenue, Port Lands, on Toronto's Lake Ontario waterfront.
The Plant has been used for lots of Toronto-based TV productions and movies including Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 Pacific Rim and the 2014 remake of RoboCop. It’s also here that Freddy scrupulously records the results as Billy (Asher Angel) experiments with his new-found super-powers in 2019’s Shazam!
The epilogue, which sees Marvin in drag in a wheelbarrow to deal with a little nuclear problem in 'Moldova', was filmed in a wilderness area in the heart of New Orleans’ 1,300-acre City Park.