I woke up today with a whatsapp text message, and from a different friend, a link to a news story: both relating to the event of actor Paul Walker’s unfortunate death. I don’t normally feel much about people in the entertainment industry but for a lot of fans of action films, this death has come to hit particularly hard.
This has been the year for when my friends and I have gotten into the Fast and the Furious (F&F) franchise. I remember cynically saying how the introduction of Dwayne Johnson was a bizarre way of revitalising a set of films that went on for too many sequels, by the time I finished watching F&F6 I knew two things: I MUST watch the sequel F&F7 (it was evident there was going to be a sequel – both in terms of the post-credits scene and the success of F&F6), and the other thing was: I’m going to watch this twice.
The film may not be cinematic gold like say, Empire Strikes Back or the Wizard of Oz, but for me there were personal moments for the film. There were comedic moments where watching with friends we bonded over the unbelievable and physically impossible stunts and set pieces. I saw the film twice in the cinema and the first time was with my friend who was writing up his Doctoral thesis and needed some time away from writing up for some comic relief; the second time was with my more ‘bro’ type friends. We laughed at the rapport between Walker’s ‘O’Connor’ and Diesel’s ‘Toretto’ characters, with lines like ‘I always preferred American Muscle’ (a reference to a type of car and obvious homo erotic undertone).
I have another fond memory of watching F&F2 with another friend of mine, it was a night when we were watching all action films, and when we made the bad decision of ordering fish and chips as well as a seperate chinese takeaway simultaneously. We laughed uncontrollably at the troll physics stunt at the end of F&F2 performed by Walker’s ‘O’Connor’.
There are many things painful about his death. The F&F films have given me a lot of joy in recent months, and its created a lot of bonding and humour among many of my friends, with some of the phrases in the films repeated in our common parlance (‘you’re going down, Torretto!’, or ‘why do I smell baby oil?’). The film made a lot of money and its kneejerk brand of action is made in a way that knows its audience. The way in which Walker died casts a shadow on what his film character represented and did. It makes the disclaimer at the end of F&F6 all the more poignant: that the stunts should not be replicated.
I feel very sad about Walker’s death, and my thoughts are with the friends and family. Those Fast and Furious films have given a lot of happiness to people around the world, and made the studios a lot of money. It should also be said that Walker’s last whereabouts were at a fundraiser for the victims of the Philippine Typhoon Haiyan, reflecting his real-life philanthropy. As a fan of the F&F films, I’ll remember him with fondness, and will continue to constantly re-watch the films. I had a plan to watch Fast 5 and 6 over Christmas Day. I think that I definitely will now.