Created By: BigMartin on April 10, 2012 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on June 10, 2013
Troped

Down LA Drain

The LA storm drain system is used as the setting in a film/TV show, usually a car chase.

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Trope

"The L.A. River, for all your car-chase needs!"

Fun fact: That's not just a storm drain system, that's what's left of the Los Angeles River (which would be dry in the summer if not for lawn runoff, and which has been put into concrete channels for almost its entire length). According to The Other Wiki, the right name for those is "viaducts." Note that this is not the same as the L.A. sewer system.

Basically, these large concrete drains (as mentioned above, actually a riverbed that was lined in concrete to control erosion) get a lot of mileage for chase scenes in movies because they look interesting and because they're conveniently nearby for any shows or movies produced in the Los Angelas area (that is to say, anything produced in Hollywood, which is quite a bit of stuff). The fact that there's not much traffic that you'd need to block or divert for filming probably also makes it convenient.

It's kind of like the urban car chase equivalent of Kirk's Rock. May overlap with Absurdly Spacious Sewer. Compare Artificial Riverbank.

Here's the Wikipedia entry, with a detailed history of "Kirk's Rock" in TV and film.

REDIRECT: Los Angeles River

There's an alt titles crowner.


Examples:

Film

  • Terminator 2, when the T-800 first encounters and rescues John Connor from the T-1000.
  • It's the site of the car race in the film version of Grease.
  • Where the giant ants ended up in Them!.
  • Discussed in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, I forget which one. They're having a Grease-style car race in the river, and Crow riffs "The L.A. River, for all your car-chase needs!"
  • The end of The Gumball Rally included a race down the LA river.
  • Gone in Sixty Seconds has an LA river chase scene.
  • Chinatown comes to mind, It's been a while since I last saw the film so I can't write a proper example, but the plot revolves around LA water system. The concrete structures are featured.
  • In the finale of Volcano, they demolished an empty high-rise so it would fall into the path of a stream of lava flowing down a street, directing it into a storm drain where it would flow into the sea.
  • Early in The Core, the crew of the Space Shuttle has to make an emergency landing here after Earth's collapsing magnetic field causes the Shuttle's navigation systems to go haywire during reentry.
  • The 2003 Mark Wahlberg remake of The Italian Job has the heroes driving through the viaducts in Mini Cooopers as part of their getaway.
  • The film Brick involved a murder that took place in a tunnel in the viaduct system.
  • In the film Point Break, Utah chases one of the "Ex-President" bank robbers on foot, ending with him injuring his knee after jumping into the viaduct and his quarry getting away.
  • There's some driving down the LA river in the film Drive. I guess, since The Driver seems to see himself as a character in a film, this is actually a direct nod to the trope itself.
  • The car chase in Repo Man goes into the drains as well.
  • The final scene of Blood In Blood Out takes place in the L.A. storm drains where Paco meets Cruz to see one of his murals and where he comes to accept that he is responsible for everything that has hapened to Miklo.

Literature

Live-Action TV

  • The fifteenth season of The Amazing Race started there.
  • Frequently used by Angel on Angel.
  • Didn't the rebels in the original V hide out there?
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "The Camikazi Kid" [sic] Sam leaps into a 17 year old racing enthusiast in San Gabriel Vally CA. He and the bad guy of the episode have their climactic race in the drains.
  • As I recall, you'd see it a lot in Stock Footage on C Hi Ps, with the cops riding their motorcycles through it to get wherever they were going.
  • The Discovery Channel show The Colony was a "survival experiment" set in a What If? After the End setting where Humanity has been wiped out by a disease. The gathered "survivors" had to band together to survive by any means that they could. Housing and warmth, defenses from animals and raiders, food, running water- all the necessities needed to survive. The 1st installment was filmed in an abandoned industrial park surrounding the Los Angeles river channels. The surrounding area was cordoned off from the public to ensure that the immersion wasn't broken. This also included making sure that no cars or planes were heard passing by.

Music

  • The Swirling Eddies song "What a World, What a World" has the repeated lyrics, "Roll LA River, roll / and take me to a better world."

Video Games

Western Animation

  • Happens at least once (perhaps more) in The Simpsons. Bart and Lisa miss the school bus, and Marge chases the bus around the drain system so that it stops and they can catch it.

Community Feedback Replies: 47
  • April 10, 2012
    Shnakepup
    Also in a particularly memorable mission on Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Technically not Los Angles but "Los Santos", an in-universe analog for LA.
  • April 10, 2012
    elwoz
    Fun fact: That's not just a storm drain system, that's what's left of the Los Angeles River (which would be dry in the summer if not for lawn runoff, and which has been put into concrete channels for almost its entire length).
  • April 10, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I guess this is kind of like the urban car chase equivalent of Kirks Rock.
  • April 10, 2012
    randomsurfer
    It's the site of the car race in the film version of Grease.
  • April 10, 2012
    chicagomel
    Frequently used by Angel on Angel.

  • April 10, 2012
    JonnyB
    Where the giant ants ended up in Them.
  • April 11, 2012
    MartinTheMess
    Didn't a space shuttle crash-land there at the beginning of The Core?

    Discussed in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, I forget which one. They're having a Grease-style car race in the river, and Crow riffs "The L.A. River, for all your car-chase needs!"
  • April 11, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Happens at least once (perhaps more) in The Simpsons. Bart and Lisa miss the school bus, and Marge chases the bus around the drain system so that it stops and they can catch it.
  • April 11, 2012
    Wheezy
    According to The Other Wiki, the right name for those is "viaducts."

    • In the finale of Volcano, they demolished an empty high-rise so it would fall into the path of a stream of lava flowing down a street, directing it into a storm drain where it would flow into the sea.
    • Need For Speed Underground, which is set in a No Communities Were Harmed version of LA, has several races that take you through empty storm drains.
  • April 11, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Didn't the rebels in the original V hide out there?
  • April 11, 2012
    Shnakepup
    @MartinTheMess: That'd make a good page quote :)
  • April 11, 2012
    Koveras
    For the non-Americans here... What's so special about LA storm drain system?
  • April 11, 2012
    LOAD
    It's were almost every car race is held in movies.
  • April 11, 2012
    Vidor
    Live Action TV

    Literature

  • April 11, 2012
    JonnyB
    The end of The Gumball Rally included a race down the LA river.

    Gone In Sixty Seconds has an LA river chase scene.

    You can drive the LA river in the video game LA Noire.

    Screw it, I just found a complete list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_River#Filming_location

    Note that this is not the same as the L.A. sewer system.
  • April 13, 2012
    morenohijazo
    ^ I suppose that will only cover examples for the Film and Live Action TV entries.
  • April 13, 2012
    TooBah
    The 2003 Mark Wahlberg remake of The Italian Job has the heroes driving through the viaducts in Mini Cooopers as part of their getaway.
  • January 24, 2013
    DRCEQ
    I notice that plenty of examples are being listed, but there's no effort put into the description. Why are we pointing out the importance of this trope?
  • January 24, 2013
    TrollBrutal
    Chinatown comes to mind, It's been a while since I last saw the film so I can't write a proper example, but the plot revolves around LA water system. The concrete structures are featured.
  • January 24, 2013
    triplesec
    Does this include the rivers, such as the LA river, which along much of their length in soCal are concreted totally so as to loook like huge stormdrains?
  • January 24, 2013
    AFP
    Basically, these large concrete drains (as mentioned above, actually a riverbed that was lined in concrete to control erosion) get a lot of mileage for chase scenes in movies because they look interesting and because they're conveniently nearby for any shows or movies produced in the Los Angelas area (that is to say, anything produced in Hollywood, which is quite a bit of stuff). The fact that there's not much traffic that you'd need to block or divert for filming probably also makes it convenient.

    As I recall, you'd see it a lot in Stock Footage on C Hi Ps, with the cops riding their motorcycles through it to get wherever they were going.
  • January 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Quantum Leap episode "The Camikazi Kid" [sic] Sam leaps into a 17 year old racing enthusiast in San Gabriel Vally CA. He and the bad guy of the episode have their climactic race in the drains.
  • January 25, 2013
    morenohijazo
    OK, I've added all the examples and added all the suggestions for the description, but there's still a lot of remaining work, both for the descriptions and the examples.
  • January 25, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • The Discovery Channel show The Colony was a "survival experiment" set in a What If After The End setting where Humanity has been wiped out by a disease. The gathered "survivors" had to band together to survive by any means that they could. Housing and warmth, defenses from animals and raiders, food, running water- all the necessities needed to survive. The 1st installment was filmed in an abandoned industrial park surrounding the Los Angeles river channels. The surrounding area was cordoned off from the public to ensure that the immersion wasn't broken. This also included making sure that no cars or planes were heard passing by.
  • January 25, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    The film Brick involved a murder that took place in a tunnel in the viaduct system.
  • January 25, 2013
    AFP
    I think the name needs help. Either Los Angeles River or Los Angeles Storm Drains or something witty-yet-concise.
  • January 26, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    In the film Point Break, Utah chases one of the "Ex-President" bank robbers on foot, ending with him injuring his knee after jumping into the viaduct and his quarry getting away.
  • February 10, 2013
    morenohijazo
    ^^ Changed to the second one.
  • February 10, 2013
    morenohijazo
    There's some driving down the LA river in the film Drive. I guess, since The Driver seems to see himself as a character in a film, this is actually a direct nod to the trope itself. Also, I'm shocked no one gave this example already, which makes me think a good few of you haven't seen the film -- you need to go out and watch it at once!
  • February 11, 2013
    morenohijazo
    ^ This comment is not mine, I just edited it to pothole it. The guy who posted it may regain the name by editing it again.

    BTW, I think the examples need some work, preferably by people who know the work.
  • February 11, 2013
    Folamh3
    The examples need additional description.
  • February 16, 2013
    morenohijazo
    ^ That's what I just said.
  • February 16, 2013
    OmarKarindu
    Film
    • The car chase in Repo Man goes into the drains as well.
  • February 16, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Film

    • the final scene of Blood In Blood Out takes place in the L.A. storm drains where Paco meets Cruz to see one of his murals and where he comes to accept that he is responsible for everything that has hapened to Miklo.
  • February 16, 2013
    StarSword
    Maybe add a redirect from Los Angeles River.

    Film:
  • February 17, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Too bad we can't call it Down LA Drain.
  • February 17, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Hey, that's catchy.
  • February 19, 2013
    morenohijazo
    So, we have three possible titles: Los Angeles Storm Drains, Los Angeles River, Down LA Drain. Which one should be the main one and which ones the redirects? Vote.
  • February 21, 2013
    MetaFour
    Music

    • The Swirling Eddies song "What a World, What a World" has the repeated lyrics, "Roll LA River, roll / and take me to a better world."
  • February 21, 2013
    StarSword
  • February 21, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Hey, that last title idea was a joke! *laughs* It would probably have to be plural anyway, because this is about the LA storm drains collectively.
  • March 16, 2013
    morenohijazo
    It doesn't seem that crowner has had much success, but I'll change the name for Down LA Drain, at least for a while.
  • April 19, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    The Terminator 2 example is zero context. How about this:

    • Terminator 2, when the T-800 first encounters and rescues John Connor from the T-1000.
  • June 5, 2013
    AFP
    So, something I just noticed, there is a trope called Artificial Riverbank. Not sure if this would thus be a different trope, or merely a very large section of examples of the same.
  • June 6, 2013
    LOAD
    ^I think it's iconic enough and has enough examples to be different.
  • June 9, 2013
    maxwellsilver
  • June 9, 2013
    StarSword
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