Note: The Fast and Furious series is my favorite film franchise of all time. That being said, Furious 7 is in many ways a tonal shift from the previous films. That's understandable but initially strange.
Let's look back through time. The Fast and the Furious was just a straight-up undercover cop film with street racers. 2 Fast 2 Furious was a hyper realized version that slightly missed what made the first one so special, while simultaneously coming up with some of the best characters yet. Tokyo Drift brought the series back down to earth a bit and reset the quality bar. Fast and Furious might have brought it down a bit too dark but definitely established the main characters and an overarching plot that was always hinted at in the previous films but was never fully realized. But all those films, whether they knew it or not, where just preparing for the ultimate in cinematic arts. Fast Five was the peak of lovable characters, fun story and gritty intense-yet-almost-believable action. Fast and Furious 6 continued the tradition of Fast Five while bumping it up to an insane level yet still somewhat grounded. Now Furious 7, and I don't mean this in a bad way, is getting to transformers level of craziness.
Furious 7 starts off with possibly the best plot line ever conceived. (Fast 6 Spoilers) At the end of 6, "the team", as I hear they call themselves, takes down Shaw (notably known for being the brother of Jason Statham's character). This, of course, does not please Jason Statham so he sets out on a killing rampage that, for some reason, includes an entire hospital of people. Maybe they should have done a better job at bringing someone who was in an exploding airplane back to life? From this first scene in the movie you can tell that we are in for something different than the previous films. The camera editing and film style is more experimental; not in a bad way but a lot of slowing down, speeding up, post processing and crazy shots. This is very cool in certain spots; like when the camera will rotate to follow the action, but definitely adds the larger than life style to the film.
On the other hand, life is going pretty well for our other characters. Dom is back to a street-racing legend hanging out with old faces and pop stars (naturally). Brian and Mia are becoming accustomed to family life in one of the most memorable scenes in the film. I also assume the others are doing well but more just sad from the news of Han's death. This leads to a theme in the film that has been in the past 3 but is played up even more this time. They constantly mention the fact that they want to stop doing dangerous things but of course they end up doing more dangerous stuff in this film than the other 6 films combined.
Now, to avoid spelling out the entire plot of the film let us get to what is awesome about the movie. The fight scenes are very impressive this time around. Nothing matching Vin vs The Rock in Five but still some awesome stuff. You can tell that a lot of attention was paid to the choreography; Jason Statham and Tony Jaa bring more of a stylistic, martial arts background. Jason Statham always feels like a looming threat throughout the movie. Early on, the film turns away from the Shaw story line and adopts a government manhunt of another dangerous arms dealer. While this sort of leads to a "too many bad guys" situation, it also pays off in that Shaw is always a looming threat in the film and will just randomly show up at the worst times possible to mess up our heroes' plans. Just to give you a hint at what this movie is up to, here are some of the things that happen: driving cars off a cliff and surviving tumbling down the mountain, driving cars into a predator drone, demolishing multiple buildings in LA, killing a bunch of non-corrupt cops, and crashing cars head on into each other at over 100 mph then immediately getting out and fighting. Believe me that is just the tip of the iceberg.
All the action is very well done so it's hard to complain about that, but there's also less character moments then the previous films. The only main character story involves Dom trying to get Letty to fall back in love with him. This is cool and all, but the crew as a whole seems to have less to do than just fight people. Brian's story setups the fact that he needs to stop this life soon for the sake of his family, this of course plays into the fact that this will tragically be his last film in the franchise. Tyrese Gibson gets a lot of screen time with this one being the most like Tyrese than ever before, which is just awesome.
Now it might sound like I have a negative tone in this review, which I don't want to have. It's more confusion, the movie as a whole is the most fun you will probably have in a theater this year and brings back the greatest characters in amazing fashion. The switch in tone, and the heartbreaking (but sweet) ending leave me wondering what the future of this amazing franchise holds. But ultimately if this was to be the last Fast film, at least it would end on a high note. One that fully understands what this franchise is all about, friends, family and living life the the fullest.