In Memoriam: Paul Walker

“I’m into being a dad, that’s where my focus is most of the time. I’m an actor that’s my job, but it’s not my life. I have a lot of other interests too.”- Paul Walker

It is with great sadness that I am reporting that Paul Walker has died on November 30th 2013 at approximately 3:30pm. Although Walker was featured in the first installment of the recurring, adrenaline-filled racing franchise The Fast and the Furious, Walker has always been a modest, mild actor whose interest in activism and humanitarian work has left a lasting imprint on society for the better. Walker became founder and CEO of his own humanitarian aid organization, Reach Out Worldwide, after an affecting trip to Chile following the tragic events of an earthquake. Walker has since then used the large salary that acting has provided him as a positive means of giving back to the people who need it most. 

My father always told me to remember the best in the people we lose. So with that said, and in honour of the recent sad news, we here at Night Film Reviews want to remember Paul Walker in some his most memorable work. The list of five films you will find below, are not only great performances that the actor gave but also fantastic films that helped the specific genres they were featured in. Unfortunately for Walker, the success of the Fast films did bring a typecast to many of the potential of his roles. But regardless of the typecast and as we will see with some of his earlier work, Walker was a fine actor whose potential to deliver fine film performances was growing with each and every new role.

Here is the list of the Top 5 performances of  Paul Walker’s fine career.

5. The Fast and the Furious (Film Franchise)

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They may not be the best movies to ever grace the silver screen but since the fourth installment, one cannot deny its power at the box office. One of the most crucial reasons why the Fast franchise is featured on this list is simply to showcase that there is hope in other franchises with more entries. The Fast film series is one of the FEW franchises that proves real talent and entertainment value is possible to maintain the older the franchise gets. The Fast movies may be the reason Walker became famous in the first place but it certainly isn’t the best role he has played. Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore the great cultural impact the Fast film series has had on youth, car-lovers and people in search of high adrenaline; indeed a Hollywood spectacle.

4. Joy Ride (2001)

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It’s hard to believe that this 2001 thriller was co-written by directing powerhouse J.J Abrams and directed by Rounders director John DahlJoy Ride was an underrated thriller with twists, turns and some fun cinematic moments. It’s one of the first films of its kind that established a menacing villain just with the sound of his voice (Ted Levine who played Walker‘s boss in The Fast and the Furious). The film was a fun descent into the early 2000’s thriller genre.

3. Pleasantville (1999)

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Although the film was one of the first feature roles for Walker, his portrayal as the naive  Skip Martin was vital to the plot of the film. The loss of innocence in Pleasantville wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the All-American look of Paul Walker in Gary Ross‘ (The Hunger Games) directorial feature debut. Walker, throughout the late 90’s, was infamous for playing the school jock that every boy aspired to be and the boy every girl aspired to date. In the end, Pleasantville shot Walker to a career where he was able to play serious roles in serious movies.

2. Varsity Blues (1999)

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Varsity Blues may still be one of the greatest teen/sport movies ever made and marks the first feature for MTV Films, a large feat for a pop-culture infused entertainment company.  Not only was the film one of the FIRST EVER films to feature some of the best, generation defining songs in its soundtrack but it’s also a film whose narrative drives forward with the songs featured within the film itself. Focused on a small Texan town that associates football with God, a meek, book-smart quarterback with a lot of talent Moxon (James Van Der Beek) is forced into the star quarterback position when the All-American quarterback Lance Harbour (Walker) is injured during a game. Varsity Blues still remains one of my all-time favourite sports movies just because it knew how to blend the sex, glory and awesomeness that is high school sports. Walker was fantastic as star QB Harbour and his chemistry within the film with the likes of Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Ali Larter, Amy Smart and Scott Cann was pitch-perfect. Plus, it really showcased that million dollar smile Walker was infamous for having.

1. Running Scared (2006) 

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Running Scared is a wild goose chase of a film with some highly disturbing scenes that make Kill Bill look like Barney, and edge of your seats thrills that make the Fast franchise look like it was made with toy cars. It is by far my favourite Walker film and a definite cult classic. South African director Wayne Kramer uses the film as an homage to some of the most iconic figures in film history as well as introduces us to one of the coolest torture scenes involving some black light and hockey. The film is a crazy descent into cinematic madness and it couldn’t have been a more awesome, heavily-stylized, manic roller coaster that it already is. Although Walker is in a constant state of hysteria as Joey Gazelle, the film couldn’t have worked without him. Plus, the film is one of Vera Farmiga‘s *drool* breakthrough roles and the sexy laundry room scene and the pedophile scene rank atop some of the best scenes in any film of that year.

As seen above, Walker was apart of some really defining genre films as well as films that define a generation of youth and pop culture. Until his death, I never really realized how much of a philanthropist Walker was and just how far reached his efforts as a humanitarian went. As far back as I can remember, Walker was never featured in gossip magazines or the tabloids (with the exception of Tiger Beat) because of his refusal to accept the expected ‘Hollywood lifestyle’. Instead, Walker kept a low-profile, and explored the ways in which he could extend his passions to help others; one of them being his love for cars. Before the tragic car accident that took his life, Walker was on the verge of organizing his own auto-show where much of the proceeds were to go towards his aid organization. Walker is a shining example of an actor who used much of his star-studded power and money towards the efforts of helping others; something that is very admirable in an industry where the very soul and humanity of people are exchanged for fame and fortune.

Paul Walker Hours

In the next two weeks, Walker would have been releasing what may have been his best performance yet. In Hours, Walker plays Nolan, a father who must fight to survive during Hurricane Katrina all the while keeping his newly born daughter alive in a vacant hospital connected to a ventilator. Unable to leave the hospital, Nolan faces the most daring obstacles to keep his only surviving family alive. Here’s the trailer.

Paul Walker indeed had a bright life and career ahead of him. Hours looks like Walker was on his way to making a lasting film about the power of the human spirit during the times of one of the most devastating and catastrophic natural disasters in our history. Walker will surely be missed throughout the industry and among many, with not only his marks as an actor, but also as an unflinching man who has made an undeniable contribution to society.

In conclusion, here is one of Walker‘s most famous quotes given during an interview with Flaunt Magazine in its July 2001 issue.

“Some people say that you should go to all the parties, to the nightclubs, the Viper Room, and make contacts, and I look at them and say, ‘You don’t want to have contacts with those people.’ Look at what happened to River Phoenix (who died in 1993 of a drug overdose outside the Viper Room). If you get caught up in that, it ruins you. Hollywood is garbage.”-Paul Walker 

Rest In Peace Paul. You will surely be missed.

Update!: Universal Studios wanted to pay tribute to their fallen franchise star and have put together a warm, touching video which highlight’s Walker‘s career as franchise star and main protagonist Brian O’Connor.

Watch this.

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