April 8th, 2022
STARRING: JAKE GYLLENHAAL, YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN II, EIZA GONZALEZ
DIRECTED BY: MICHAEL BAY
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
You could say that you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. That phrase fits for the recent output from director Michael Bay. He’s someone who had yet to make a movie I had liked. Truth be told, I typically hate Michael Bay’s movies, from the onslaught of shifting gear noises in the Transformers series, his whipping style of cinematography, and an inability to merge a compelling story with his brand of explosive action. But as far as his style of movies go, those are long in the past, where superheroes run the multiplex, and adrenaline action is almost foreign to cinema. Because of that, I was genuinely excited for Ambulance– the recent heist gone wrong, turned chase extravaganza from Bay- which features the fascinating acting duo of Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II- playing a pair of brothers, looking for one big score in a bank robbery to turn life’s woes around. The final result is a Michael Bay explosion, all mostly for the better, with multiple bumps in the road. Storming through it all, Ambulance is relentlessly entertaining, from start to finish. Just be prepared for wall-to-wall Michael Bay action
A word that often comes up in all of Michael Bay’s films is exhausting and Ambulance is in lock-step with that description. The set up is unprecedentedly brief. We meet Will Sharp (Abdul-Mateen II), an ex-Marine, purple heart recipient, and currently struggling to make enough money to help his sick wife with an experimental surgery. His adopted brother is Danny Sharp (Gyllenhaal), a wrecking ball of a human, working out of an auto-shop, which is a front for illegal deals with associates. When Will shows up at Danny’s spot to talk about a potential job, he reveals they’re going to rob a bank, get in, get out, but he needs an answer now. Will isn’t given time to think and soon they are inside, holding everyone up, but it’s interrupted by a police officer that walks in to flirt with a teller. It’s right then when everything goes haywire, bullets flying, armored trucks smashing into cop cars, with Will and Danny soon taking over an ambulance to get away.
The third character is EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez), someone that is wholly committed to her profession, but the added wrinkle is that the injured person in her ambulance is the same police officer that Will and Danny shot during the bank raid. Now all of the Los Angeles Police Department is tracking this ambulance, in a constant chase, with helicopters in the sky, police cars, snipers on rooftops, and more chaos in the back of the ambulance cabin. Once the chase begins, the explosions start, and the Bay team never slows down for a single minute.
To be honest, my rating is leaning more towards 2 ½ stars than 3, but Ambulance is undoubtedly committed to its form. Swooping drone shots galore and California sun reflections. The problems rest on writer Chris Fedak, who certainly treats the audience as stupid, willing to let idiotic plot moments stay, believing nobody will notice. We constantly hear reporters narrate what we see with our eyes, along with various characters making a plethora of dumb mistakes, including a life-saving medical procedure conducted on the ambulance mid-chase. The heavy police presence is headed by Garret Dillahunt’s Captain Monroe. He’s there to bark orders and convince us that police matters are no different than a general directing a war zone, which is why Ambulance certainly feels like a giant advertisement for tactical gear. It’s that heavy handed and objectively dumb stuff that makes me wonder if Bay watches his final cuts. There are simple changes to the script that would limit any narrative problems. This is a problem in all of Bay’s films, where less would be more, but that’s not how he works. The foot is pressing down on the pedal and it’s not lifting up.
The final factor that makes Ambulance stay thrilling is the work by Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II. As for Gyllenhaal he’s letting loose, reaching back for his Nightcrawler skills, playing a man obsessed with getting away and constantly justifying his decisions with it being for the benefit of others. For the character depth- that is all Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, playing the broken man, bitter for not getting the true appreciation for his service to the country, and the one character with strings attached. He sticks the landing when scenes turn to the personal family dramatics. And yes, for all of its wildness, it’s out of control nature, I was thoroughly entertained by Ambulance. It’s either a sign of the times, where a Michael Bay joint feels original, and a reminder of just how good original action movies can still be. Either way, sound the sirens, Ambulance is one hell of a ride.
AMBULANCE IS PLAYING IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY APRIL 8TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady