It hardly seems real that Paul Walker, American actor and mainstay of the gloriously entertaining “Fast & Furious“ series of car action movies, died yesterday in a car accident in Los Angeles. He was 40 years old.
An actor whose charisma, surfer-dude looks and uncomplicated charm recalled leading men of an earlier age – it’s hard not to view his work “Fast & Furious” movies and not be reminded of Steve McQueen, though Walker appeared to have fewer personal demons bedevilling him – Paul Walker was frequently mocked by bloggers for having a perceived lack of range and thus being well suited to the mainstream entertainment beloved of Hollywood studios .
To this I would suggest watching Wayne Kramer’s deranged 2006 neo-noir fairytale, “Running Scared“, a film so invested in it’s depiction of a nightmarish criminal underworld that it makes most Scorsese movies look like “Downton Abbey“.
Playing against type as a low-level gang footsoldier, Walker’s performance is distinct and strikingly at odds with his prevailing matinee idol persona, demonstrating a nervous and brittle energy redolent of depth and nuance rarely required of him elsewhere. It’s very much film with a love it or hate it tone – the OTT sleaze positively wafts from the screen – but one which definitely shows a different side to this actor. It certainly helps that he has the wonderful Vera Farmiga to play against.
When I heard about Paul Walker’s death this morning, I popped my copy of 2009’s “Fast & Furious” in my Blu-Ray player and enjoyed the film’s introduction to his Brian O’ Connor character, with the actor gifted a frenetic and visceral foot chase through downtown LA neighbourhood. In the forty minutes or so I watched, I was reminded of why Walker’s performance was so enjoyable in this series.
With age becoming more evident in his face, he had begun to cut a more laconic and relaxed figure on screen than in the early part of his career, when the charges of his being little more than a pretty-boy surfer dude might have carried more weight.
It’s still unclear how the still in-production “Fast & Furious 7” will cope with the body-blow of losing one of it’s key cast and family members – we can but hope that there is some way for the film makers to regroup and produce a film which celebrates the memory of this somewhat underrated actor.