Tribute to Paul Walker who played cop-turned-fugitive Brian O’Conner in The Fast And The Furious films

Paul Walker’s fiery end in a car crash on Sunday has a macabre irony to it — the actor zoomed to the stratosphere with the Fast and Furious movies. The franchise, a testosterone-charged fantasy of hot babes, jaw-dropping stunts and magnificent machines, made stars of the cast. While Vin Diesel of the buff-tattooed body, bald head, gravelly voice and the cutest puppy dog eyes strode the screen like a the colossus he was as Dom, and Michelle Rodriguez sizzled as Letty, Walker with his laidback charm and beach-boy looks proved an effective foil as undercover LAPD cop-turned-fugitive Brian O’Conner.

The Fast And The Furious came out in 2001, and the sixth instalment came out earlier this year. Walker starred in all of them except the third in the series Tokyo Drift (2006), which in the franchise universe is set after the events of the following three films — if Lucas could do it a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Neal H. Moritz (producer) can surely do it in the glamorous glitzy world of street car racing!

Though Walker seems synonymous with the F&F movies, there are two other movies that come to mind in connection with the actor. There is Joy Ride (2001), a road movie with a Hitchcockian aura of suspense and Eight Below (2006) from Disney, a throwback to the old-fashioned family movie involving loyal, intelligent dogs and heart-breaking acts of courage.

Joy Ride directed by John Dahl is co-written by J.J. Abrams (yes, the man responsible for the cool Star Trek reboot). Walker plays a university student on a cross-country road trip with his childhood friend Venna and troublesome brother Fuller. When they buy a CB radio and play a prank on a trucker going by the call sign of Rusty Nail (didn’t that tell them anything?), their happy road trip rapidly goes south. The tension mounts as Rusty Nail proves to be a remorseless and ruthless hunter. Like the Steven Spielberg film The Duel, where the adversary is scarier as he is unseen, Joy Ride keeps the tension till the surprise-ending. Walker was just right for the minimalist film as he does not overwhelm the proceedings and take over the movie.

Eight Below (2006) directed by Frank Marshall (he directed the hilarious Congo apart from producing quite a few Spielberg blockbusters) finds Walker playing Jerry Shepard, a guide at an Antarctica research base. The movie was a thrilling tale of survival and the doggies were just the cutest. Walker, who lived in Santa Barbara with his dogs, displays a fantastic chemistry with the dogs in the movie.

Walker’s duality — he wanted to be a marine biologist and was a petrolhead — found echoes in his choice of roles as well. While the fate of The Fast And The Furious 7 is in limbo after his death, here is wishing Walker a smooth ride to the great marquee up in the sky.