Crime and Suspense: Interview with Perry Walker


In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic caper To Catch a Thief, a cat-and-mouse game unfolds from casino hall to beach side to hotel rooftop in Cannes, France, a quintessential cinematic city of glitz, glamour, and jewels. Paired with the Hitchcock classic is the short film Lucky Moose, directed by Perry Walker. This documentary short tells the story of a real-life string of Toronto robberies, culminating in a climatic citizen’s arrest amid landmark locations in Toronto’s own bustling Chinatown neighbourhood.

Toronto Outdoor Picture Show invites you to journey to parks across the city for our Cinematic Cities programme all summer long.

TOPS: This year's Toronto Outdoor Picture Show programme is titled Cinematic Cities, a theme that draws bridges between vibrant and complex cities around the world while highlighting the people who make each of these cities unique. Do you have a favourite movie that captures the spirit of a city? Is there a city that you dream of capturing on camera?

Perry Walker (PW): One that comes to mind is Chinatown. I really like the way the city, L.A., becomes a plot point in how impenetrable the whole case is. It’s less about getting to know a city and more so highlighting the impossible task of ever getting to truly know what’s going on in the darkest corners of a major city. That mystery is something I’m drawn to.

For a city I dream of capturing, I can’t get past Toronto because it’s the place I know. As much as I’d jump at the opportunity to capture other places around the world, I don’t think I’d feel qualified to try and represent any other place without having first spent a good amount of time there.

TOPS: Your film is paired with Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch A Thief, a theme that the master of suspense often centred within his films. Have you ever witnessed (or committed) a crime in Toronto?

PW: I’ll add some suspense by skipping the question of whether I’ve committed a crime here, but yes, I have witnessed at least a crime or two. When I lived in Chinatown, I came home to find someone on the front porch in the process of stealing a bike. It’s a frustrating memory because I didn’t realize what was going on at first and while it did prevent the bike from being stolen, the would-be thief got away. I tried following him while on the phone with the police but I lost track of him - and in the end, I sort of regretted calling the police and wished I had pursued my own justice, for better or worse.

TOPS: When did you first hear about David Chen? When did you know you wanted to document this story?

PW: I was already living around the corner from David Chen’s store and a regular customer there, but then I found out about what had happened in 2009 and how it all unfolded - it was all new to me. It seemed most Torontonians had heard something of it but didn’t know the whole story and certainly didn’t know how it left its mark on Canadian law. The twist in the story that made me want to put it all together was the way David went from “enemy of the state” to national hero. The way he was used as something of a pawn in Canadian politics while maintaining his own integrity was captivating for me.


TOPS: For you, what makes Toronto a cinematic city? Is there something special about Toronto that you draw inspiration from? 

PW: I think Toronto has a sort of deceptively simple image - it’s typically branded with imagery of the CN Tower skyline, greenery, the streetcars and the cleanliness - and I think that leaves an opportunity to delve deeper and get into some of the more elusive parts of the city. The fact that those layers exist but aren’t often explored is something that inspires me to try and keep telling local stories here.  

Lucky Moose screens alongside To Catch a Thief on August 23rd at Parkway Forest Park.