TL;DR – This is non-stop action from the word go, which can get existing at times, but it is a riot to watch when Michael Bay is on his game.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Ambulance Review –
For a long time, Michael Bay has been derided for his films, and I think that is both fair and a little bit unfair. Because Michael Bay has a particular style of filmmaking that does not work with every script, however, when a story and cast line up with his filmmaking strengths, well, you can get something special. Today we are looking at a film that does just that as we romp across LA County, one explosion after another.
So to set the scene, Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a war veteran. Still, he is getting shafted by the Department of Veteran Affairs because they won’t pay for his wife Amy’s (Moses Ingram) experimental surgery, and there is no way Will can come up with the $231,000 himself. Well, there is one way, but it means getting in contact with his estranged brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), who followed their father’s footsteps into the world of illicit money. This is good news for Danny because he needs an extra man in his crew to take down one of the biggest bank hauls, and Will has five minutes to pick if he is in or not. The robbery was going well, right up until Officer Zach (Jackson White) comes up to the bank to ask out one of the tellers on a date, and things fall apart from there, including Zach getting shot. Well, the police are surrounding the bank, and there is no way out, or maybe because EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza González) has arrived on the scene to save Zach’s life and that big ambulance looks like the perfect opportunity to slip past a police cordon.
There is a lot that this film gets right, but one of its strong suits is both the casting and the script. Jake Gyllenhaal is electric in this film, with an intensity I have not seen since Okja. That unhinged energy perfectly fits the filming style that permeates this film and means something is happening even in the lulls. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is the perfect straight man amid all this carnage. His character’s Army training coming to the fore helps create this sense of reality as to why someone could be as good at driving an ambulance as he is. Eiza González perfectly captures that feeling of someone who is both amazing at their job and completely jaded with the process, which makes perfect fodder for being stuck in a hostage situation between two bank robbers and the cop you are trying to keep alive. Then, of course, there is the banter, and I love me some good banter. There is a lot of this throughout the film, but my winner has to be the perfect back-and-forth between Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and Lieutenant Dhazghig (Olivia Stambouliah).
Let’s talk about the action because this is basically one long car chase for almost the entire runtime. The pace in this film is practically relentless as we catapult across Los Angeles in a way that feels like it could have only happened during the COVID pandemic because it did not instantly stop in a traffic jam. Like many Bay films, there is no such thing as a simple shot. There is no locked-down camera here because we are sliding and panning and having anything that can will explode. It is almost like the Cinematographer asked what type of shot they needed for this scene, and Bay replied all of them, and here that worked. One of the significant additions is the liberal use of drone photography this time around. I don’t mean the calming static shot you see in Australian films like The Dry, but frantic zooms up the sides of buildings and around crashing cars. If there is one thing Bay can do well, it is action, and here is a master class in his style.
The film’s structure is one of its strengths because the scenario is both plausible yet full of conflict. Danny and Will need Cam to keep Officer Zach alive, Danny because the cop is keeping the police from killing them all outright, Will because he is a good person, and Cam because she is an EMT and a decent human being. This creates levels of conflict between every person in the film, but it also leads to one of the best moments when they try to do surgery in the back of the ambulance. I will say that, unlike films that are one long car chase like Fury Road, there was no real respite throughout the film. Because even in the downtimes, the film was still going at a thousand miles a second. This did lead to me feeling exhausted in places. Also, the reason why they were all in front of the bank near the road never made sense. But these are small things.
In the end, do we recommend Ambulance? Absolutely. This was a high-octane ride from start to finish. It was well cast, the action was fun, and Jake Gyllenhaal exploding on the screen is always a blast. If you liked Ambulance, I would also recommend to you RRR.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Ambulance
Directed by – Michael Bay
Based on – Ambulancen by Laurits Munch-Petersen
Screenplay by – Chris Fedak
Music by – Lorne Balfe
Cinematography by – Roberto De Angelis
Edited by – Pietro Scalia
Production/Distribution Companies – New Republic Pictures, Bay Films, Endeavor Content, Project X Entertainment & Universal Pictures.
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
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R