Paul Walker

Timeline (2003, Richard Donner)

Timeline is really bad. The opening sequence starts Donner regular Steve Kahan in a terrible bit part but at least there’s the stunt casting; the rest of the poorly edited sequence has ER doctors and anonymous law enforcement looking into the mysterious death of a man who appeared in the middle of the highway for Kahan to almost hit. Of course, we the viewers know he’s somehow travelled through time because we see a knight on horseback about chop him down before cutting to Kahan in the desert.

That opening shot of the knight cutting down the time traveller should be a trailer shot, should have some kind of major visceral impact… it’s got squat. The shot’s boringly composed—somehow Donner manages to suck all the life out of his wide Panavision frame, ably assisted—unfortunately—by cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who’s never got any interesting or thoughtful lighting. Timeline looks boring, with its “renaissance village at a Six Flags” not even a Medieval Times, much less renaissance faire production design or the laughably bad costumes. The knights all look like they belong on a White Castle commercial and the time traveling heroes look like they’re trying to prove cosplay can be macho. Gerard Butler’s outfit is something else.

Though Butler is something else too. Donner apparently gave Butler two directions—make it more Scottish and play it like 80s Mel Gibson. Shirt off, hair wild, soulfully love the ladies (in this case, Anna Friel, who manages to be the only person outside Billy Connolly, who’s exempt, not to embarrass or humiliate themselves it some point during Timeline).

See, Timeline, which is about locable eccentric old archeologist Connolly going back in time through Michael Crichton-stereotype modern megalomaniacal rich recluse scientist David Thewlis’s time machine. Only he gets stuck back in time and so his team—Butler, Frances O’Connor, plus Connolly’s son, bro Paul Walker, who’s around the dig site because he’s got the hots for O’Connor and trying to tempt her away from her work to apparently quit her job and marry him and pump out babies. O’Connor’s real bad in Timeline, which sucks because O’Connor’s great, and it’s not all Donner’s fault, it’s not all the script’s fault—okay, a lot of it’s both Donner and the script’s fault, like, wow, terrible character. But O’Connor’s still bad. She’s not as bad as Walker, but she’s close, although bad in an entirely different way. If the film embraced its spoof potential—bro Walker going back in time to save his dad, Indiana Jones wannabe Butler, the silly battles, Thewlis’s mad scientist–it might’ve been… good. I was going to say amusing, but I really think about the only way you could make Timeline work is to do it as a comedy of itself. Albeit with a different script, cast, director, composer, cinematographer, production designer, and costume designer. Anna Friel and Billy Connolly can stay too if they want, Friel because she’s got the ability to—if not rise above—at lease not drown. Connolly because it’s Billy Connolly, who cares if he’s any good.

At the beginning, when Connolly’s lecturing, for a moment I thought he got the part because it was going to be “Head of the Class,” which too might’ve saved Timeline, if it were actually a “Head of the Class” spin-off. But no, then Butler’s Scottish burr dominates and it seems like it’s been dubbed it’s so over the top and you don’t realize yet what you’re in for with Butler. Even when Butler’s not particularly bad he’s disappointing because of how the film positions him. It keeps giving him chances to “breakout” and Butler never takes them. O’Connor seems to understand what a mistake she’s making, Walker can’t be bothered to care, they literally have him bro-hugging fifteenth century knights and whatnot, everyone else seems to at least get they’re in trouble. But Butler keeps it together throughout. He’s a trooper.

Who gives a risible performance.

Some spectacularly bad acting from Matt Craven and Ethan Embry. Neal McDonough is quite bad. He’s the ex-Marine security guy who takes the dreamy nerds back in time and immediately loses his cool and they have to compensate. Michael Sheen’s the evil English lord. He’s bad. He’s funny but he’s bad. Sheen might get to stay for the spoof, but only if his already hilariously big armor gets bigger.

Marton Csokas is the evil guard with a secret who becomes everyone’s nemesis at one point or another. He’s awful. He and Butler’s big fight scene actually gets put on pause—with the guys passing out stunned—so the movie can catch up with Walker and O’Connor, who get paired together for a third act mission where Walker’s got to trust the smart woman and it turns out to be a bad idea because she’s just an emotional silly. Truly bad part for O’Connor, can’t emphasis it enough. Especially for 2003 or whatever. There are better female parts in male-targeted medieval action movies from the 1950s and 1960s. I’m not sure how many because it’s not a good genre, but there are at least a few. Because it’s really bad for O’Connor here.

It doesn’t help she and Walker’s romantic chemistry is at the visibly uncomfortably disinterested miscasting error level. Though Butler and Friel’s rapport isn’t much better. It’s just not as bad in such bad ways.

There is one “must be seen to be believed” sequence in Timeline. When they travel back in time, for about fifteen seconds all the actors have to make faces to show brief, unimaginably intense pain. It’s horrible but wonderfully so.

Otherwise… I mean, I knew better than to watch Timeline. It’s on me. But did those involved in its production also now better than to be involved with it; most of the experience of watching Timeline is wondering who the hell thought this something or that something was a good idea when said somethings are so obviously terrible.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, based on the novel by Michael Crichton; director of photography, Caleb Deschanel; edited by Richard Marks; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Daniel T. Dorrance; costume designer, Jenny Beavan; produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Richard Donner, and Jim Van Wyck; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Gerard Butler (Andre Marek), Frances O’Connor (Kate Ericson), Paul Walker (Chris Johnston), Neal McDonough (Frank Gordon), Rossif Sutherland (François Dontelle), Anna Friel (Lady Claire), Michael Sheen (Lord Oliver), David Thewlis (Robert Doniger), Matt Craven (Steven Kramer), Ethan Embry (Josh Stern), Lambert Wilson (Lord Arnaut), Marton Csokas (Sir William De Kere), and Billy Connolly (Professor Johnston).


Furious 7 (2015, James Wan)

Furious 7 has some really bad CGI. And I’m not talking about the creepy Paul Walker head at the end (during the utterly out of place and terribly integrated memorial sequence). It’s everything. Director Wan doesn’t know how to shoot a single scene in Furious, not the action scenes, definitely not the car scenes, even more not the fight scenes. No one–not Wan, not his four editors, not his two photographers–cares about making the action work in Furious. The CGI doesn’t improve it or solve a physically impractical problem. It’s just the easiest way to do it. Cheap CGI.

Of course, cheap is the keyword for Furious. Screenwriter Chris Morgan has only a handful of scenes not directly related to Kurt Russell (cashing a paycheck as a CIA agent) hiring Vin Diesel and company; those scenes are desperately melodramatic, either involving Michelle Rodriguez’s memory loss, Jordana Brewster not wanting to henpeck Paul Walker too much or… no, I think those two subplots are it.

Even Jason Statham hunting down Diesel, Walker and everyone else is underused. Once Morgan and Wan establish Statham, he just shows up in every action sequence to wreck havoc. What could have been anarchy working through the movie is instead a painfully bad performance from Statham.

Really terrible supporting performances from John Brotherton, Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou.

Wan’s a bad director; he sinks Furious. The movie is absurdly mercenary. No imagination went into anything. Except maybe the cars and Wan can’t shoot those.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by James Wan; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; directors of photography, Marc Spicer and Stephen F. Windon; edited by Leigh Folsom Boyd, Dylan Highsmith, Kirk M. Morri and Christian Wagner; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Bill Brzeski; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), John Brotherton (Sheppard), Tony Jaa (Kiet), Djimon Hounsou (Jakande), Ronda Rousey (Kara), Elsa Pataky (Elena), Lucas Black (Sean Boswell) and Kurt Russell (Mr. Nobody).


Fast & Furious 6 (2013, Justin Lin), the extended version

For the most part, Fast & Furious 6 is a delightfully absurd action concoction from director Lin. The film drops the Fast and the Furious “family” into a James Bond movie; thank goodness, because it’s hard to imagine Roger Moore able to outdrive the bad guys here. And it’s even set in London (and later Spain). It’s not original, but screenwriter Chris Morgan does fold familiar action movie plot lines into a new situation. Lin’s making a non-fantasy (just absurd), non-realistic action extravaganza. It has to be seen to be believed.

But then there’s how much time is spent on Vin Diesel courting Michelle Rodriguez (she’s back from the dead, with amnesia–apparently Morgan doesn’t just like to lift from Empire Strikes Back, he likes to lift from “Days of Our Lives” too) and Lin handles it pretty well. Some of it. One spinning conversation is terrible, but the car race immediately proceeding it is fantastic work.

The thing about Furious 6 is Lin and photographer Stephen F. Windon do create breathtaking car race and car chase shots; they’re in the quickly edited sequences, but clearly done with deliberate, careful intent. And the car race between Diesel and Rodriguez is phenomenal stuff.

Some good acting from Evans, some bad acting from Gina Carano (though one of her fight scenes with Rodriguez is awesome). Everyone else is fine. Lin manages to get better performance from Dwayne Johnson here too.

Furious 6 is mechanical and superficial, but beautifully made and likable enough.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Lin; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Stephen F. Windon; edited by Kelly Matsumoto, Christian Wagner, Dylan Highsmith, Greg D’Auria and Leigh Folsom Boyd; music by Lucas Vidal; production designer, Jan Roelfs; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Clayton Townsend; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Sung Kang (Han), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Luke Evans (Shaw), Gina Carano (Riley), John Ortiz (Braga), Shea Whigham (Stasiak), Clara Paget (Vegh) and Elsa Pataky (Elena).


Fast Five (2011, Justin Lin), the extended version

It’s almost embarrassing how well Fast Five is made. Director Lin can’t do two things–which might be important for the film if the story mattered at all–he can’t direct heist sequences and he can’t direct car races. He doesn’t care how the heist works or how the car race works, he cares about the scene looking good. And he and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon make Five look really good.

Is there any depth to that appearance? Not much, but it’s smooth and keeps the film moving at a good pace between action sequences. And there are lots of action sequences. Whether it’s car chases or fight scenes or gun fights, Lin puts together some amazing stuff. There’s no depth to it, but who cares… there’s pretend depth.

Chris Morgan’s script goes overboard acknowledging all the Fast and the Furious movies and their characters. Only there’s no depth to any of the characters. Gal Gadot and Sung Kang flirt. Is it cute? Sure, she’s an affable supermodel and he’s likable without much acting talent. Is it good? Not really. But it passes the time.

Until an action sequence. Or the promise of one (both Lin and Morgan very carefully build expectation for a fight between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson).

Speaking of Dwayne Johnson. He’s terrible. Laughable. But it’s actually immaterial to the film.

There’s some male bonding between Diesel and Paul Walker, but not much.

And Lin again gets a decent Walker performance.

In between amazing action scenes.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Lin; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Stephen F. Windon; edited by Kelly Matsumoto, Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Peter Denham; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Ludacris (Tej), Matt Schulze (Vince), Sung Kang (Han), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Tego Calderon (Leo), Don Omar (Santos), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Elsa Pataky (Elena), Michael Irby (Zizi) and Joaquim de Almeida (Reyes).


Fast & Furious (2009, Justin Lin)

With Fast & Furious, director Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan do something incredible. They take what, a decade before would have been at best a video game spin-off (maybe featuring the original, now down in their career cast's voices), and make an energetically mercenary movie out of it. The film's ludicrous at almost every turn, but it's hard not to appreciate a huge budget in CGI being spent on car chase after car chase.

Oh, there are some real cars racing, but Lin apes the conclusion to Return of the Jedi for the finale–just with cars. It's entirely admirable and entirely pointless. There's not an honest moment in the entire movie, everything is perfectly calculated to entertain. The film gets too loud and almost too busy–Gal Gadot's useless character is in the not really bad bad Bond girl part–seemingly because Vin Diesel wants a lot of tear jerker scenes to be a tough guy during.

Lin doesn't want to hold a shot–he's clearly more into Michael Bay for car chase inspiration than Billy Friedkin–but his composition is good and Amir Mokri does a fine job shooting the film. The real car racing footage looks great. All the composite CGI stuff is a little too obvious, but it's a video game, you're not supposed to care.

The film does require a certain enthusiasm for Diesel and Paul Walker's bromance; Lin gets a surprisingly okay performance from Walker.

Like I said, big, loud, dumb, sometimes perfectly amiable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Lin; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Amir Mokri; edited by Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Ida Random; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), John Ortiz (Campos), Laz Alonso (Fenix), Sung Kang (Han), Tego Calderon (Tego), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Jack Conley (Penning), Liza Lapira (Trinh), Shea Whigham (Stasiak) and Don Omar (Don Omar).


2 Fast 2 Furious (2003, John Singleton)

At some early point during 2 Fast 2 Furious–probably soon after the first car race, it becomes clear the film has two major influences for director Singleton. First, Star Wars. The car races often feel like Singleton is shooting an X-Wing sequence. Second, dumb white cop/black cop eighties movies. In this one, Paul Walker is serious white cop while Tyrese Gibson is funny black cop.

They’re not actually cops, they’re undercover ex-cons trying to clear their records. It doesn’t matter. For a movie about two childhood friends reconnecting in their adulthood, there’s no character development in 2 Fast. Singleton doesn’t just have superficial banter and car races, there’s Mr. Big too!

Cole Hauser, apparently in make-up as a Cuban-American but playing a German Miami villain (did they change their minds last minute and give him a new name?), is an evil Mr. Big. He tortures people and he menacingly cuts his cigars.

The torture scene is actually rather disturbing. Singleton manages not to take much seriously but even he apparently has limits.

Walker’s not any good, but he’s somewhat likable; his Keanu Reeves impression is improving. And while Gibson struts instead of acts, some of his lines work out well. As the girl, Eva Mendes is harmless. Hauser’s silly, James Remar’s atrocious, but otherwise, the supporting cast is fine.

Except Devon Aoki; she’s bad.

Good photography from Matthew F. Leonetti, bad editing from Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett.

Decent car races.

Pretty dumb movie.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Singleton; screenplay by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, based on a story by Brandt, Haas and Gary Scott Thompson and characters created by Thompson; director of photography, Matthew F. Leonetti; edited by Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett; music by David Arnold; production designer, Keith Brian Burns; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce), Eva Mendes (Monica Fuentes), Cole Hauser (Carter Verone), Ludacris (Tej), James Remar (Agent Markham), Thom Barry (Agent Bilkins), Devon Aoki (Suki), Roberto ‘Sanz’ Sanchez (Roberto), Mo Gallini (Enrique), Edward Finlay (Agent Dunn), Jin Auyeung (Jimmy), Michael Ealy (Slap Jack), Amaury Nolasco (Orange Julius), Eric Etebari (Darden) and Mark Boone Junior (Detective Whitworth).


Turbo Charged (2003, Philip G. Atwell)

With the exception of being a Hollywood production (even if it’s a Hollywood production for video), Turbo Charged plays like an amateurish short movie make on an iMac. The kind of thing iMovie was great for back in the late nineties–lots of imaginative transitions, the omnipresent music so there doesn’t need to be any dialogue or even sound recording.

And at the center of Turbo Charged is movie star Paul Walker. He doesn’t have any lines, he just has to walk around, just has to run from the cops (he’s on the run, a rogue undercover cop, or so all the national news coverage says). Right, national. Because Turbo Charged is cross country, with flashier Indiana Jones map travel lines.

Only all the locations are in Southern California.

Those unreal moments are nothing compared to Walker. He can’t even successfully essay his part when he’s silent. He’s visibly lost.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Philip G. Atwell; written by Keith Dinielli; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner).


The Fast and the Furious (2001, Rob Cohen)

An undercover cop (Paul Walker) finds himself drawn into a criminal underworld with a charismatic leader (Vin Diesel)! There’s not much original about The Fast and the Furious. What the screenwriters don’t lift out of Point Break, there’s director Cohen grabbing car chase related moments out of Lethal Weapon 3 and so on. Well, Cohen also does have a neat Duel reference too.

Oh, right. I should try to discuss The Fast and the Furious, not just list all the other movies it rips off.

Diesel’s fine. Walker’s bad. Michelle Rodriguez’s bad. No one else leaves an impression. Except Ted Levine, who should know better.

The movie has this strange disconnect between Cohen’s more traditional cops and robbers bro-mance and the pervasive, overbearing soundtrack. Whole sequences are just set to a song, seemingly chosen just because it’s loud and sounds cool. Peter Honess’s editing is deaf to the corresponding songs; even if they match the narrative, Honess can’t figure out where to cut them. The first half of the movie feels entirely different from the second, mostly because BT’s sentimental score completely replaces the Top 40 selections.

Another interesting disconnect is the one between how Cohen visualizes the race scenes and how the script talks about them. Diesel gets a long monologue about how it feels to drive and Cohen’s best idea for visualizing the experience is to make it play like a sci-fi movie. Time slows down and there’s bullet-time.

But time is just a magazine.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Cohen; screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist and David Ayer, based on a story by Thompson and a magazine article by Ken Li; director of photography, Ericson Core; edited by Peter Honess; music by BT; production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski; produced by Neal H. Moritz; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia Toretto), Rick Yune (Johnny Tran), Chad Lindberg (Jesse), Johnny Strong (Leon), Matt Schulze (Vince), Noel Gugliemi (Hector), Vyto Ruginis (Harry), Thom Barry (Agent Bilkins) and Ted Levine (Sgt. Tanner).


Flags of Our Fathers (2006, Clint Eastwood)

When my friend saw Flags of Our Fathers and I asked him about it, he described it–I’m paraphrasing–as an unexciting four. Seeing it, I can fully understand. It’s a great film, but its greatness is somewhat inevitable and uninteresting. Clint’s way too good of a filmmaker at this point to turn in something less, especially given the content. However, the content, specifically Clint’s fluctuating interest in it, is what makes Flags so unexceptional, so unexciting. Flags is based on a guy’s book investigating his father and the other flag-raisers at Iwo Jima. While the film does establish itself with a present-day frame, it isn’t specified its this author investigating. Away from Iwo Jima, Clint’s most interested in Adam Beach’s character, an alcoholic American Indian who’s touring as a hero but can’t get served in bars. Beach’s character is the most like an Eastwood character in Flags. At one moment, after the book-writing frame became clear and Flags felt a lot like The Bridges of Madison County, only without Clint’s full commitment to the frame, Beach seemed a lot like Clint in that film.

Even though Beach has Clint and the film’s interest for the war bonds campaign (after the photo got popular, the surviving subjects toured to sell war bonds), Ryan Phillippe gets the most emphasis on Iwo Jima. Watching Phillippe act and do it well, I felt validated–back in 1998, I said he was going to be good (after watching Playing by Heart) and it only took him seven years. The Iwo Jima sections of the film are short and involve a lot of CG and watching Clint handle it is interesting. He uses the CG like a rear projection, making Flags of Our Fathers‘s battle scenes look a lot like a modern 1940s war film. He pulls it off well, because it’s interesting to look at, while not being visually stunning. Still, I think there was a whole story of the characters on Iwo Jima, just because the castings so good–Barry Pepper, Neal McDonough and Robert Patrick are all great in small roles (Pepper especially), but the greatest surprise of Flags, performance-wise, has to be Paul Walker. Sure, he’s only got ten lines and he’s in the film for two and a half minutes, but he’s really good.

The third main character, played by Jesse Bradford, somehow gets more time than Phillippe, but has the least to do. The film only hints at the relationship between the three men, but never explores it, probably through some kind of misguided sense of historical accuracy. I’m kidding (to some degree), but it’s obvious there’s something holding Clint back here and it’s probably the source material and its presentation. Clint’s made an excellent film, but there’s something missing, some awareness of itself and the different ways it moves, since it does have three concurrently running narratives. It might even be three films, or at least two since Bridges managed to beautifully incorporate its two narratives.

It’s a powerful film and a complete experience, but it’s like ordering dinner at a great restaurant, a restaurant you know is going to be excellent. The food’s great, but it doesn’t surprise you.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis, based on the book by James Bradley with Ron Powers; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox; music by Eastwood; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Ryan Phillippe (John Bradley), Jesse Bradford (Rene Gagnon), Adam Beach (Ira Hayes), John Benjamin Hickey (Keyes Beech), John Slattery (Bud Gurber), Barry Pepper (Mike Strank), Jamie Bell (Ralph Ignatowski), Paul Walker (Hank Hansen) and Robert Patrick (Col. Chandler Johnson).


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