As you've almost certainly heard by now, actor Paul Walker died Saturday in a fiery car wreck. The star of many notable films, including all but one of The Fast and the Furious franchise, was 40. Walker's turn as undercover detective Brian O'Conner defined -- perhaps even more than co-star Vin Diesel -- what has become one of the most bankable franchises at any studio. But he also had memorable roles in Varsity Blues, Flags of Our Fathers and a host of other films. Beyond that, he seems to have generally been one of the good and humble dudes in a town filled with a whole lot of the opposite. (Check out his appearance on MTV's Cribs, which Filmdrunk posted last night as proof.)
Anyway, I don't have too terribly much to say about Walker. He was almost impossibly good-looking. He was great in Varsity Blues. And, uh, I haven't even seen all of The Fast and the Furious movies. But I do know a couple of gents who have, so I figured best to have them weigh in on Walker's life and legacy. So, without further adieu, here are just a few thoughts on Walker from my brother Sam and one of my very good friends Neal, two of the most unabashed The Fast and the Furious fans you will find anywhere.
It seems unique that he, for the most part, carved out extremely memorable roles as a supporting actor in films that managed to have tremendous pop culture impact. For people of our generation, we recall him in Varsity Blues, which is one of the defining sports films of the last few decades. He was great in the bad-guy-turned-hero role, which he played masterfully in not only Varsity Blues, but also Skulls (an egregiously underrated movie), and of course The Fast and the Furious.
In an era largely devoid of original action movies like Rambo, The Terminator, Die Hard, etc., The Fast and the Furious stands as the defining action series of the past 20 years. While Vin Diesel is the star of these films, it is Walker that is actually the series constant -- even if he is more recognized for his good looks than acting prowess.
Personally, I think the franchise will struggle to survive without him, and I think he is as vital if not more vital than Diesel to its stature and continued success as a whole.
And from Sam:
These thoughts are very incomplete, but:
- Totally agree with everything Neal says especially about Skulls. It's quite underrated.
- Americans (and moviegoers generally, but especially Americans) have a long history with car and car chase movies. When I watch The Fast and the Furious, it is with a hint of irony, yes, because of the ensemble cast, over-the-top action scenes, threadbare plot lines, etc. But the fact remains that I always watch. Every time a new one comes out, I'm there in the first week enjoying myself as much as the teenager who is sitting next to me. Paul Walker was, as Neal said, the one who really held the franchise together, who appeared in more films throughout the series than anyone else.
- The Fast and the Furious franchise, of which Paul walker was an absolutely integral part, is the series that has kept the automobile action movie alive, and not only alive but also relevant and cool for our generation.
- It's my feeling that it would be silly not to include this franchise (again, of which Walker played an integral part) in a list of the greatest movie franchises of all-time.