Paul Walker in his final ride: Furious 7

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3.5 out of 4 stars

In Vin Diesel’s mind, the winner for Best Picture at the 88th Annual Academy Awards, which won’t be held for 10 months, is clear.

The Fast and Furious Crew (Publicity photo)
The Fast and Furious Crew
(Publicity photo)

Furious 7 “will probably win,” he told Variety, “unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.”

Diesel is as serious about his prediction as he’s been when he has gotten behind the wheel in Universal’s wildly popular — and wildly profitable — franchise.

“Do I shy away from aiming high?” he said. “No, I don’t.”

It’s one thing for Daniel Day Lewis, who owns three golden statues for best actor, or Tom Hanks, who has two, to proclaim their latest picture the best of the best with nine months left in the year.

But it’s another for Diesel, 47, to say it without having even been nominated for an Oscar.

Unless he’s right.

Furious 7 is great – intricately weaving good versus bad, loyalty to family and some bad-ass racing scenes and explosions that rival any action movie. Ever.

Action pictures simply haven’t won for Best Picture and considering Furious 7 is a sequel, that certainly doesn’t bode well for it to win the most coveted Oscar, either. Since The Godfather: Part II won in 1974, just one sequel — The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004 — has won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Furious 7 should win the Oscar for best picture, Vin Diesel, the movie’s star, said. (Universal)
Furious 7 should win the Oscar for best picture, Vin Diesel, the movie’s star, said. (Universal)

“We all know that there’s a little stigma toward action films,” Diesel said. “We know it, we’ve heard people complain about it, we’ve heard Marvel complain about it, we’ve heard DC [Comics] complain about it, and how Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Batman has never gotten a shot at that.”

Can Furious 7 flip the script? It’s simply too early in the year to say.

But this much is clear: if it doesn’t, then don’t expect any action movie sequel to get nominated anytime soon.

Director Justin Lin pushes the franchise to its limit, even if it means having cars spend just as much time flying through the sky as the do on the ground.

The plot is simple. Toretto, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and good ol’ officer Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) have been marked for death by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who is out for vengeance after they beat down his brother in London in the Fast & Furious 6.

Paul Walker's final performance is a memorable one in Furious 7. Walker died during the movie's shooting in September 2013. (Universal)
Paul Walker’s final performance is a memorable one in Furious 7. Walker died during the movie’s shooting in September 2013. (Universal)

Statham plays a fantastic villain, and his physicality makes for some terrific fight scenes that standout in a franchise filled with them.

Toretto leads his crew across the globe doing whatever it takes to kill Shaw, who’ll stop at nothing to bury Toretto’s crew.

The movie moves swiftly, as its 137 minutes are gobbled up by explosions, scantily clad women, plenty of well-timed comedy by Gibson and of course, car chases — lots and lots of them.

“What the world won’t anticipate is how emotionally powerful the movie is,” Diesel said. “We were successful in one-upping the action sequences, and adding an interesting dynamic to the world. If there was no number attached to these movies, they would be contenders for Best Picture. And when people see Furious 7, they are going to agree.”

The movie zips from scene to scene until the end, when the movie slows considerably to pay an emotional but classy tribute to Walker, who died in a car crash at the age of 40 on Nov. 30, 2013. He had been in the middle of filming Furious 7 when he died, leaving filmmakers with a dilemma of how to finish the movie.

The combining of the seamless use of Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb as body doubles with special effects and recycled footage from Walker’s previous movies brings him back to life in Furious 7. But don’t spend your time figuring out when that happens because it will pass you by as fast as the cars. Just enjoy the ride.