‘Ambulance’- Movie Review: One of Michael Bay’s Best in Years

Ambulance has some potential in delivering a decent action movie from director Michael Bay. However, walking into one of his movies now doesn’t give me any confidence considering I’ve never been a fan of him and he’s still one of my least favorite directors. Yes, he has his fans, but I honestly don’t know why, if I’m honest. His filmography consists of three I don’t mind (The Rock13 HoursBad Boys), while everything ranges from wasted potential to total garbage. With that being said, his latest film, a remake of the 2005 Danish film of the same name by Laurits Munch-Petersen, had me going in with an open mind for an experience that has you turn your brain off. And luckily, I’m more optimistic about this thriller than I thought.

Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a war veteran desperate to get the money he needs for his wife’s expensive experimental surgery. Unfortunately, the insurance won’t cover it, costing him $231,000. Running out of opinions, he turned to his life-long criminal adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) to loan him the money. But he has a better idea for him: to take part in a bank robbery worth $32 million. It doesn’t go according to plan as they thought as the LAPD has the building surrounded and has taken out the rest of the crew except Will and Danny. In an attempt to escape, they hijacked an ambulance with EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza González) and a badly wounded Officer Zach (Jackson White), leading them on a non-stop chase all over the roads and highways of the City of Angels without getting caught.

It took six years for Bay to make me like another movie of his and it took the second-worst Transformers movie (The Last Knight) and a crappy Netflix movie (6 Underground) to come between to make it happen. As someone who enjoys his fair share of dumb ‘90s action movies, Ambulance feels like a nice throwback to them that can keep your attention on the screen. We aren’t expecting this to give him an Oscar because it’s nowhere the most fantastic film of all time, but with its simple plot, it ends up being mildly enjoyable.

What others have also noticed with a difference in his films is that the quality reflects on the budget. Ambulance is working with a $40 million budget to do a two-hour-long car chase. He can make a movie with a smaller around this amount when a good enough premise has his interest. Because anything that’s higher than $90 million fails at being a big blockbuster way over his control. With that modest budget behind it, he was capable of essentially making SpeedGrand Theft Auto, and a touch of Collateral into this crazy ride. We’re following these men on this insane, heart-pounding day that isn’t fun for anybody riding inside.

Even if it’s all about the three characters, you eventually find yourself wondering how everything will play out, whether we want them to survive or not. They all gave great performances. There’s nothing better than Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II getting along as these brothers where a lot of tension and love between them gives this the emotional core the film carries. Gyllenhaal, in particular, always does his part whenever his character needs to be over-the-top and gets unhinged whenever in the stressful situations he’s in. Mateen II can be seen as the brother trying to keep calm and get through this without his family knowing, and we know Will is a good man despite the day he got himself in. Seeing him in these blockbuster roles and even awards caliber work, like in The Trail of the Chicago 7, shows he’s one of the best actors in Hollywood today. But I would go as far to say Eiza González as Cam was the strongest character out of everybody. She’s someone anyone can relate to, and we got to know where her mind is at the beginning when going through her typical morning, understanding she’s a no-nonsense person nobody wants to partner with. Not many female characters are worth remembering in Bay’s film since they’re there for sex appeal at times, but she’s definitely the standout in what I think is the best I’ve seen her since Baby Driver.

As for the action side that has people flocking to the theater in the first place, I’d say it’s a good thing when it doesn’t give you a headache with the Bayhem. Just an extended chase sequence that rarely stops to take a break, topped with car crashes, bullets are flying, helicopters to capture the view without a lot of visual effects, and known for doing tons of practical stunts instead. I didn’t have a reason to see it in IMAX, but it’s worth seeing it on the biggest screen possible. The driver side of me kept wondering how much gas was left in the tank for them to drive around the city the entire time. Does it ever get tired? No, surprisingly. This gets them through some obstacles to make them uneasy for them. People will be on the edge of their seats for one sequence in particular: with the officer losing blood, Cam must operate on him because the chances of actually stopping at a hospital are minimal to none. Not knowing what will happen if she kill him creates this tension around 60 mph that was handled better than I thought. But the typical Bay-isms are here if you’re into that for whatever reason.

Chris Fedak’s screenplay is rather silly when it’s impossible not to think anything will go right for making wrong choices for the two brothers. I like how it sets everything up right away and throws us into the situation, but there should’ve been more time to understand Danny and Will’s history to where they are now. I don’t even think we know what kind of disease Will’s wife has. But besides the humor not consistently hitting, though not the kind to have me rolling my eyes, and this doesn’t have the best dialogue, it’s already long enough where it didn’t need to be 136 minutes. But, of course, we all know it should’ve been 20 minutes shorter. And though the action was good, you also have to deal with Bay’s style of excessive drone shots. They’re a cool way to get unbelievable footage, from under a jumping cop car or scaling down a building; other times towards the latter half is when Bay seems to be having too much fun when they’re shots that are so random to use them.

Ambulance is one action-packed ride through and through that generally surprised me. Of course, nothing’s amazing in terms of story, which doesn’t make me a fan like everyone else. Still, Michael Bay keeps the adrenaline moving with the action, performances of its three leads and showing he can make something entertaining once in a while. Honestly, not only is this the best to come from him since 13 Hours, but puts this up with one I would mind giving a rewatch anytime soon.

Grade: 6/10 (B-)

Ambulance is now playing in theaters. Runtime: 136 Minutes. Studio: Universal Pictures

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