On November 30th, we had the fifth anniversary of the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker, best known for his role of former undercover cop Brian O’Conner in the Fast and the Furious franchise. A new documentary titled ‘I Am Paul Walker’ from filmmaker Adrain Buitenhuis has just come out on VOD and DVD. Using home videos, interviews that Walker did, clips from his movies and in-depth conversations with his family, friends, and co-workers give us a depth look at a man who died too soon and left behind a legacy of advocacy and kindness.
Paul Walker was actually Paul Walker IV. HIs grandfather, Paul Walker II was a Navy diver who recovered bodies after the Pearl Harbor attack and went on to be a prizefighter, twice fighting at Madison Square Garden for the world championship and set land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Paul’s dad, Paul Walker III was Viet Nam vet that later became a world champion sharpshooter. Paul grew up in this very manly environment and developed a fondness for cars, the outdoors and fighting. Paul Walker’s lifelong fascination with cars and racing was developed at an early age as he would talk with his grandfather, asking every question he could about his grandfather’s racing of vehicles on the salt flats. Paul was taught by his father and grandfather how to fight and was quite good at it, though as his fame grew Paul backed away from confrontations. His father proudly tells the story off when Paul was a young man, he held the door open for a man who was carrying some packages. When the man made a disparaging remark, Paul simply decked the guy.
Because of his good looks and acting talent, Paul started performing as a twelve-year-old, mostly acting in TV shows like ‘Highway to Heaven,’ ‘Charles in Charge’ and daytime soap “The Young and the Restless.’ The documentary effectually shows us home movies, giving us an insight into how close Paul was to his family. Paul took his job of big brother seriously, and we see through home movies and interviews with family just how much he enjoyed the role. This is especially true of when Paul was fifteen, an unexpected birth of his brother Cody occurred. Cody in the film talks many times about how much he and Paul would spend together. Cody and Pauls’s mom tells us numerous stories of how Paul would sort of kidnap Cody to go exploring or surfing, and she would have to call Paul to ask where her youngest son was.
The film explores the shaky time when Paul transitioned from child star to adult actor. Paul went through some lean times, living in a garage at one point with creditors calling him day and night. In 1998 Paul had a string of hits, including playing the 50s jock in ‘Pleasantville’ and the quarterback in ‘Varsity Blues.’ The film shows how suddenly Paul was back on the radar of Hollywood, but Paul didn’t want to continue playing the jock or the surfer dude, taking darker roles like the one he did in the 2000 film ‘The Skulls.’
Of course, Paul’s big break was playing the undercover cop that falls in love with a family of street racers in the 2001 film ‘The Fast and the Furious,’ a film that took Hollywood and its monster box office returns by surprise. With Paul’s background with working on cars and racing, it was as if Paul was made for the role. The success of that film and the other’s in the franchise allowed Paul to do what he truly loved, spending time with nature. Paul loved the water, spending as much time as he could on beaches and in oceans around the world. An avid surfer, the film shows a humorous episode of the old MTV series ‘Cribs’ where Paul and his buddies had bought an old camper and had traveled down the whole California coast surfing all along the way.
The film, mostly through interviews with his family and his manager, show us the Paul that they knew, not the one the public knew. The film shows how he helped not only family and friends through hard times but also did humanitarian aid in places like Haiti, where Paul led a team to help after a massive earthquake. Paul as did a lot of work with ocean and shark conservation as friends talk about how he thought about quitting acting and becoming a marine biologist. Paul had a daughter out of wedlock with a longtime girlfriend, Rebecca When the mother of his child wanted to get away from Hollywood, he paid so she and Paul’s daughter Meadow could move to Hawaii and paid for Rebecca to go to college to become a teacher. The film shows us that the last couple of years of his life, Meadow came to live with him, and it’s evident through his actions that these were some of the happiest times of Paul’s life.
We learn a couple of interesting facts from the film. At one point Paul was the leading candidate for the role of Superman in the 2000 film ‘Superman Returns.’ He called up his manager at a costume fitting for the film and told him that the part wasn’t for him (the part eventually wen to Brandon Routh). Due to the death of his grandfather, Paul turned down a cameo in the third Fast and Furious film. Vin Diesel got the cameo and because he made a deal, controlled the Furious franchise after that. We will always wonder if Paul had done the role, what would the franchise been like with Paul in control.
There is one major hole in this documentary, only Tyrese Gibson is interviewed from the Fast and Furious films. Why people like Vin Diesel, who was the godfather of Paul’s daughter and Michelle Rodriguez, who came to the Walker home after Paul’s death were not interviewed for the film is a mystery.
The last ten minutes of the film is about the accident that caused Paul’s death. It’s a tough ten minutes to watch as family and friends relive that fateful day, and nothing is mentioned about the lawsuits that the family filed against the driver of the car and the car manufacturer.
Fans of Paul are going to enjoy ‘I Am Paul Walker, ‘a moving tribute to a man who loved life and was taken from us much too soon.
I Am Paul Walker Revie
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
Mike’s Movie Ratings from best to worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Maintee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again