Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Garret Dillahunt, Keir O’Donnell, Jackson White, Olivia Stambouliah, Moses Ingram, Colin Woodell, Cedric Sanders, A Martinez, Jesse Garcia, Wale Folarin, Devan Chandler Long, Victor Gojcaj, Remi Adeleke, Jessica Capshaw, Randazzo Marc, Briella Guiza and Brendan Miller.
Screenplay by Chris Fedak.
Directed by Michael Bay.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 136 minutes. Rated R.
You pretty much know what you’re getting when you go into a Michael Bay movie – unalleviated violence and mayhem wed to paper thin characters and a needlessly complex plot. Ambulance is even one of his better films. It’s certainly better than the Transformer movies which occupied his time for most of the last decade.
Which is certainly not so say it’s a great film or a masterpiece or anything, just that if you turn off your mind and take it at face value, Ambulance delivers the requisite adrenaline rush. You just don’t want to think about the storyline too much, because if you do it’ll evaporate in a puff of testosterone.
Ambulance is based on a little-known 2005 Danish film of the same title, although to give you an idea of Bay’s sense of bombast, he takes a trim, mean 80-minute action-adventure saga and pads (over pads?) it out to two hours and 12 minutes.
Ambulance starts off at 65 miles an hour and never really slows down. Brothers (adoptive brothers, anyway…) Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) take part in a botched bank robbery and hijack an ambulance in an attempt to escape, leading to an extended manhunt all over the streets and highways of Los Angeles.
They are there for different reasons. Will, a recently discharged veteran, is desperate to raise money for medical care for his wife, who may die if a medical condition is not treated – a condition that the insurance companies are deeming unnecessary. (Read: too expensive.) He’s basically a good man in a bad situation. Will is just trying to save his wife and get home safely without anyone getting killed. (Although, with the dozens of firefights and auto crashes that pile up in Ambulance, that horse is way out of the barn.)
Danny is the wild brother, a cocky career criminal who convinces his reluctant brother that they are going to pull off a foolproof score. Of course, everything goes sideways almost immediately. Gyllenhaal is definitely the live wire of the film. He’s obviously having a hoot with the fact that nothing he does will possibly be too big to bother Bay, so he just chews scenery gleefully.
Giving the film a moral conscience (sort of) is the flawed gorgeous-but-driven EMT paramedic Cam (Eiza González), who has to spend the whole time trying to save a shot LA cop in the ambulance, negotiate with her kidnappers, try to escape and to stop things from spiraling even further out of control.
That’s not even mentioning the cops, the FBI agent who knew Danny from college, the Mexican drug gang and a cast of dozens of supporting characters of varying importance. Not to mention the hundreds of random extras who get mowed down by speeding vehicles or speeding bullets.
It’s fast-paced (of course), driven, and just a tiny bit insane, but it’s also somewhat entertaining for what it is. Bay even makes an in-joke reference to his earlier smash hit The Rock – and who says Bay has no sense of humor? Granted, it wasn’t all that funny, but got to give him points for the self-awareness.
After years of bloated spectacles like his five (count’ em!) Transformer movies and Pearl Harbor, it’s nice to see Bay downshifting to the simpler, lighter pleasures of his earlier works like the aforementioned The Rock or Bad Boys.
Bay has a very specific, very unique style as a filmmaker. However, even as he is pummeling his audience into submission, there is some fun to be had if you just surrender yourself to the experience. A Michael Bay film is like a roller coaster – lots of sharp turns, unexpected drops, constant motion and wild emotions. At least until the coaster clanks to a halt at the end of the ride, at which point you exit the car and never think of it again.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 8, 2022.