The Quarter-Mile King

"Furious Six" image (c) Universal Pictures 2013
“Furious Six” image (c) Universal Pictures 2013

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.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6XgFh8yRwk

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.

 

 

 

 

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