Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez, Garret Dillahunt, KeirO’Donnell and Jackson White.
Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Chris Fedak
Michael Bay’s Ambulance is tale of two estranged brothers, Danny (Gyllenhaal) and Will (Abdul-Mateen), and a bank heist gone wrong. Based on a 2005 Danish picture of the same name Michael Bay drags the story out to a much longer telling of the story. While the plot is relatively basic, Bay manages to pad out the movie with a whole lot of extra ‘stuff’, some of it nonsensical and some of it to add the Michael Bay wow-factor.
Watching this film was unusual for me, mostly because having watched the trailer a couple of times I thought it looked awful. The trailer really put me off. It’s a pity, because at the core of the film, partially concealed by Bay’s posturing is a relatively slickly executed action film – Danny and Will hijack an ambulance: inside is a critically injured cop and a ballsy paramedic (González); outside are guns, explosives and a lot of very angry law enforcement officers. While in general I thought it was better than the trailer suggested it would be, it was frustratingly ridiculous at some points. I’m not just talking about the slow motion stunts or classic ‘Bay’ whoosh of a camera down the side of a building to heighten drama, but some of the core plot points, that used up so much time, just made no sense. One example that I can give without spoilers is a big emphasis on confusing the police by joining with other ambulances, thus stretching the polices attention and giving an opportunity to escape. However, the plan was to spray paint the focal ambulance, which makes no sense at all, and they spend so long discussing and achieving this and they somehow manage to slip a neon green ambulance past a police blockade…I’m all for a bit of creative licence, but it surely should be at least a tiny bit plausible!
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal are fine; there’s nothing in their performances that will blow the audience away but that’s more down to a relatively basic script and character stereotypes. The tension building is effective throughout, the score having a strong impact, however the whole film is a build. They don’t really let it drop, which either exhausts it’s viewers, or loses their attention. The film essentially plays out as one extra-long car chase, with Bay’s trademark direction present in all its glory. Throughout, Bay’s camera rarely stays still, sweeping and swooping through the LA streets as the ambulance does its best to evade the constantly growing police presence. This kinetic camerawork, coupled with Bay’s choppy editing style can at times leave it’s audience feeling nauseous.
Despite it’s glaring flaws, audiences seem to quite enjoy it. Ambulance wasn’t for me – but I appreciate that many others might enjoy the escapism and high speed car chases to allow them to step into a couple of hrs without thinking about todays troubles. If you can forgive some nonsensical choices and enjoy a high speed action film, then there’s a good choice you’ll enjoy it.