The tragic death of Paul Walker still stings. One of the most reliable and entertaining leading men in mainstream Hollywood, Walker had the rare ability to find the exact right groove in silly material. He could take the goofiest material imaginable and treat it with just enough respect to make you buy it without ever forgetting to actually keep it fun. This served him well in the Fast and Furious franchise, but it also allowed him to emerge as a capable star in other genres, where he was frequently cast as a professional everyman. To watch a Paul Walker performance is to watch a guy who never phoned it in.
With Brick Mansions hitting theaters, it's time to pay tribute to the late, great Mr. Walker. His career may have been tragically cut short, but these are the 10 best moments in his filmography.
Paul Walker Abuses His CB Radio Privileges (Joy Ride)
Before he became a certified action hero with The Fast and the Furious, Paul Walker starred in the largely forgotten Joy Ride, a horror movie about a college student and his older brother who invite the wrath of a murderous trucker while on a cross-country road trip. The bulk of the film is fairly generic stuff, a fairly straightforward slasher riff on Steven Spielberg's Duel, but Walker gets a chance to show off some of his underutilized comic chops early in the film. After acquiring a CB radio to help pass the time, Walker pretends to be a woman and convinces a mysterious trucker named "Rusty Nail" to meet at a hotel. Things spiral out of control from there, but this is the one and only time you'll ever get to hear Walker impersonate a woman and seduce the gruff and bloodthirsty voice of Ted Levine. It's the right kind of weird and one of the last times Walker would play a truly young and immature kid on the big screen.
Paul Walker Was an Undercover Cop the Whole Time (The Fast and the Furious)
The Fast and the Furious is actually one of the weakest films in the franchise it spawned, lacking the bombast and tightly woven ensemble that have defined the series in more recent entries. Walker himself is still struggling to find his voice -- he's a little wooden, lacking the natural charisma that comes with playing in the action genre long enough. However, there's one scene that hints at the greatness that would come with the character of Brian O'Connor in later entries. After rescuing Dom (Vin Diesel) from certain death, Walker confesses the truth to his brother from another mother: he's a cop and he's been assigned to take him down. The scene is staged with raw urgency and the "betrayal" only occurs out of love: if he doesn't blow his cover and call for help, their injured friend will die. It's the first major bump in modern action cinema's greatest bromance and a defining moment for Walker as an action star and as the moral compass of the Fast and Furious franchise.
Paul Walker Raises the Flag at Iwo Jima (Flags of Our Fathers)
There are a lot of great actors in Flags of Our Fathers and it's a testament to Paul Walker's abilities that he slides effortlessly into a larger dramatic ensemble. Clint Eastwood's World War II drama is a maudlin and flawed affair, but Walker is perfectly cast as a noble, all-American solider on hand to help raise the American flag at Iwo Jima. Eastwood wisely chooses to underplay this iconic moment and his actors follow suit, treating it as just another day on the job, unaware that they're a part of one of the most famous and inspiring events in American history. Although Walker is one of the biggest names in the film, his lack of ego (especially in big moments like this) is commendable. How many Hollywood leading men would purposely step into the background and give everything to the moment without caring about a close-up or a dramatic line?
Paul Walker Takes a Prison Vacation (Fast & Furious 6)
It's one of the most bizarre sequences in the entire Fast and Furious series: Paul Walker's Brian intentionally turns himself into the authorities so he can be sent to an American prison so he can confront the bad guy from the fourth film so he can uncover information relevant to the sixth film, which is really a prequel to the third film. It says a lot that the oddness of this narrative tangent stands out in a movie filled with one ludicrous set piece after another, but it's really just a showcase for some Walker badassness, so there's no real reason to complain. The villain falls right into the trap, Brian gets what he came for and he brutally dispatches the bad guys in one of the series' best hand-to-hand fight scenes. By this point, these films had become true ensemble pieces, but when he's given a moment to shine as a solo action hero, Walker delivers the goods.
Paul Walker Leads a Team of Badass Sled Dogs (Eight Below)
Eight Below has managed to slip through the cracks in the years since its release, which is a real shame -- you don't see many family-friendly adventure movies that refuse to treat younger viewers with kid gloves. It's a rarity: a film that respects the kids watching it. Paul Walker had the unique ability to always look good at whatever job he was portraying on-screen, but he's rarely looked as completely professional and cool as a guide at an Antarctic research station. Although the bulk of the film focuses on his sled-dog team after they get stranded during a brutal winter, an early sequence finds Walker and his canine companions performing a daring rescue operation after a visiting professor falls through thin ice. Watching Walker work in tandem with his sled dogs is fantastic and Walker sells it, looking exactly like the kind of guy you'd want by your side if you had trouble in an icy wasteland.
Paul Walker Gets an Erection (Pleasantville)
Before he became a go-to action star, Paul Walker would frequently be cast as brain-dead high schoolers and stuck-up jocks. The best of these parts was undoubtedly in Gary Ross' satiric fantasy Pleasantville, which followed two modern kids (played by Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) who get transported into a 1950s TV universe. Walker plays Skip Martin, the straitlaced boy who Witherspoon's more, um, adventurous teenager treats to an evening of "real world" fun. With sex pretty much not existing in the fictional and squeaky clean Pleasantville universe, Walker is horrified when he gets an erection, wondering exactly what has gone wrong with his body. Walker has had bigger roles, but this is probably the biggest laugh of his career.
Paul Walker Drives into a Boat (2 Fast 2 Furious)
The only duo that tops the Paul Walker/Vin Diesel relationship in the Fast and Furious series is the pairing of Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson, whose utterly bizarre friendship frequently tips the scales toward blatant homoeroticism. Since it would be irresponsible to just make this entry "every scene with Walker and Tyrese in 2 Fast 2 Furious," we have to go with to big climax, where Walker takes down the bad guy's escape boat by driving his speeding car off a ramp and landing on it. It's one of the more ludicrous and impractical stunts in the franchise and it's made all the better by Walker's stoic confidence and the fact that Tyrese jus' isn't having it. The only problem with the increased scope of the later films is that these two don't get to share as many scenes.
Paul Walker Almost Has Washing Machine Sex (Running Scared)
Wayne Kramer's Running Scared is a movie so psychotic and off-the-wall in every frame that picking one moment to single out feels impossible. This list easily could have been "Paul Walker's 10 Best Running Scared Moments," but that would just be weird. Instead, let's focus on the scene where the film does slow down for a bit, mainly because it may be the sexiest scene Walker has ever been a part of. In this NSFW-THERE-ARE-BUTTS scene, Walker's small-time crook comes home and attempts to seduce his wife (played by Vera Farmiga) in the laundry room, leading to all kinds of dirty banter and ending with some very, very sexy almost-intercourse. Paul Walker is excellent in every other scene, where he's required to yell and scream and bleed and shoot everything that moves, but when he was tasked with playing a naturalistic blue-collar love scene, he made it look easy. Then again, when you are that handsome, it's probably pretty easy.
Paul Walker Acts His Ass Off (Hours)
Okay, this is the entry where we're going to cheat. It's difficult to pick a single great Paul Walker moment from Hours because every scene is a Paul Walker moment and many of them are great. This is career-best work for an actor that many people were often quick to dismiss as a simple action star and it's a bittersweet look at his untapped range and potential. Walker plays a father whose child is born just as Hurricane Katrina slams into New Orleans in 2005, taking out the hospital's power. With his newborn daughter needing an incubator to survive, Walker stays by her side, hand cranking the generator keeping her breathing while battling rising waters and looters. It's practically a one-man show and Walker owns every scene, expressing a heartbreaking naturalism that he had never shown before.
Paul Walker Surfs a Flying Car (Fast Five)
As great as he was in Hours, Paul Walker will forever be tied to the Fast and Furious franchise and there is no scene that better defines the series' joyful excess than the first big action sequence in Fast Five. After rescuing Vin Diesel from a prison bus, the crew accepts a job to steal a few cars from a moving train and end up getting more than they bargained for. A few wrecked cars later, Walker and Diesel are speeding towards the edge of a cliff and rather than do something sensible or sane, they accelerate right over the edge. For a few glorious, slow-motion seconds, the care is in total free fall and Walker actually surfs on the car. He does so with a straight and determined face, lending just the right amount of gravitas to this ridiculous scene and, in the process, making it just silly enough. Man, he's going to be missed.
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