The film world was shocked and saddened at the news this weekend that Fast & Furious actor Paul Walker was killed in a horrible car crash. I don’t think the irony is lost on anyone, but it doesn’t trivialize the tragedy. He had just left an event for his charity Reach Out Worldwide, a “quick-response, mobile first aid organization aiding in rescue and recovery after major natural disasters around the globe” that Walker formed after a massive earthquake devastated parts of Haiti, and was only a few weeks removed from his 40th birthday.
While he will undoubtedly be best known as Brian O’Connor from the Fast & Furious series, he did appear in a number of commercially successful and a few underrated gems that deserve to be seen. Herewith, I present the:
Top 7 Paul Walker Movies (that aren’t ‘Fast & Furious’)[divider]
7. Varsity Blues
Varsity Blues was Walker’s first foray into big screen stardom and the first of his one-two punch in 1999 (the other being She’s All That). The actor played Lance Harbor, the captain and star of the West Canaan Coyotes football team, that is until he suffers a massive knee injury. Enter backup quarterback Johnny Moxon (James Van Der Beek) to take over his spot and eventually lead the team to the championship (call it the Tom Brady story). Although the movie was pegged as Van Der Beek’s breakout role, Walker stole the spotlight as the likable and sympathetic Lance Harbor.[divider]
Takers is one of those movies you either like or you hate. Critics hated it, but a few people (myself included) went into it not expecting anything great (as was typical for most Paul Walker movies), and were for the most part entertained. It’s fast paced, far-fetched, loaded with dumb action, and occasional mediocre acting. Hey, I just described basically every Fast & Furious movie! And just like F&F, Walker is surrounded by a colorful ensemble cast including Idris Elba, Matt Dillon, Zoe Saldana and Hayden Christensen, who incidentally beat out Walker for the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels.[divider]
5. She’s All That
Everyone pretty much remembers this one starred Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook, but seem to forget Paul Walker was in it. Indeed, Walker played Dean Sampson Jr., the guy who bet Zack Siler (Prinze Jr.) that he couldn’t turn Laney Boggs (Cook) into prom queen material. His first “villainous” role, Walker’s Dean was cocky and a jerk. He went on to ruin the bet and tried to take advantage of Laney in a motel room, but was left a little hard of hearing as a result.[divider]
4. Joy Ride
Joy Ride was a tense, effective little thriller, reminiscent of movies like The Hitcher or Duel. Walker plays Lewis, a college coed who decides to buy himself a car and drive cross-country to pick up would-be-girlfriend, Venna (Leelee Sobieski) in Colorado for a road trip together. Along the way, he bails his troublesome brother Fuller (Steve Zahn) out of jail. Fuller installs a CB radio in the car and pulls a prank on an anonymous trucker who goes by the name of “Rusty Nail” (the always creepy Ted Levine, who is never seen in this movie and doesn’t need to be. His voice alone can send chills down your spine.) Rusty Nail doesn’t take too kindly to the prank and terrorizes the brothers and Venna throughout the rest of the movie, leading to an intense if somewhat over the top finale. Walker has great chemistry with Zahn, and while it was only a moderate success, it proved that he could be a true leading man. Side note, the script was co-written by future geek overlord JJ Abrams.[divider]
3. Into the Blue
I think there was a plot to this movie, something about sunken treasure and drug dealers. No one really cared. This movie was pure eye candy, plain and simple, for both men and women. While the men got to ogle over Jessica Alba’s tanned, toned, bikini-clad booty, the women were all aflutter over Paul Walker’s six pack abs. (Hell, I think even the guys were impressed).[divider]
2. Eight Below
Eight Below was a movie that was initially written off as Disney fluff, but actually is a well-crafted wilderness adventure. Walker played Jerry Shepherd, an arctic sled dog trainer who is forced to abandon his dogs due to a massive storm. Months later, racked with guilt, he sets off to try to rescue them. Although he basically plays second fiddle to a bunch of dogs, Walker turns in an understated and touching performance that scratches the surface of what he truly might’ve been capable of as an actor.
1. Running Scared
Probably my favorite Paul Walker movie ever. It’s a little seen, underappreciated twisted thriller from director Wayne Kramer (the Cooler). Hyper-kinetic, highly-stylized, ultra-violent, and boiling over with profanity (the F word or some variation thereof is said no less than 328 times), the movie grabs you by the nutsack and never lets go. The frenetic plot has him running from gangsters, drug dealers, pimps and a homeless man as he scrambles to retrieve a missing murder weapon. Walker was convincing as a desperate family man caught in a bad situation, and he gamely takes on everything the bat-shit insane script throws at him, including taking a few hockey pucks to the face during the film’s bloody climax. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
RIP Paul Walker
September 12, 1973- November 30, 2013