Let’s not beat around the bush…no one ever expects high art from a Michael Bay film. The man himself has even admitted that he makes films for a very specific demographic that isn’t looking for deep meaning and metaphors. But Michael Bay doesn’t write anything he has directed. Based on a 2005 Danish film that is much more about humanity than action, the Chris Fedak scripted Ambulance is another Michael Bay fiasco really misses any point it tried to make.
Marine Will Sharp is home from war. His wife and newborn baby are his life, but life isn’t perfect. His wife has cancer and getting his government issued insurance to cover any of the costs seems to be a tougher fight than any war. Will has no choice but to ask his brother Danny for the money. The only issue is, Danny is a career criminal and has other ideas of how Will can get the funds he needs. Pressured into joining a high risk bank heist, Will soon finds himself driving a stolen ambulance along with his brother, an EMT tech, and the cop he just shot; all along for the ride.
Ambulance–or is it Ambulance LA/LA Ambulance as the posters really want to highlight this takes place in LA by having the letters in a different color–might be a more “adult” offering from the Michael Bay machine, but it is still a frantic jumble of quick cut madness that doesn’t even try to find a reasonable explanation for half unnecessary camera movements. Just like always, Ambulance is an excuse for Michael Bay to say, “Look what I can do with this camera,” and pretty much nothing else. It’s masturbatory film making at its height.
Sure, there was that one scene where it was pretty cool that a drone flew under a car that was jumping that immediately went over the food of a second car directly behind the first. I don’t think I’ve seen that before, very well done Mr. Bay. But this one instance is surrounded by dizzying circular movements around banal conversations and shots of a camera shooting up the sides of a building to just come back down to street level in aide of nothing other than to cause headaches.
There really isn’t much to hang your hat on for this overly long car ride. Jake Gyllenhaal comes in with his unhinged, wide-eyed performance which is too tame for the beast he’s made out to be, and not over the top enough to really be fun. Eiza González as the EMT is a bit of a lost character as sometimes she’s the protagonist, yet, other times she’s not. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp who is truly painted as the protagonist does a great job overall, but he’s putting in the effort for a film that really doesn’t care about its characters.
It’s not groundbreaking territory to try and have an audience sympathize, empathize, and even root for your protagonist who is definitely breaking the law. But Ambulance takes that idea and perverts it beyond saving. The circumstances and outcome of the original film/story have a more poignant look at right and wrong. The changes made to this version of the tale just takes all the real stakes and emotion out of play. Once Bay got his hands on it, the only thing that mattered were bad jokes, low angle close-ups, and lots of silly action. Oh, and let’s not forget the inordinate amount of call backs to Bay’s previous films. Because nothing yells ego like characters in your movie talking about your past movies.
Cheap thrills and mindless action are one thing. They can be great and fun when done right. But Ambulance, even if it doesn’t want to admit it, somehow tires to have it’s cake and eat it to. What’s left is just a franticly paced jigsaw that doesn’t understand its characters and leaves you wishing everyone just died an hour earlier.
Final Grade: D-
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Here’s the trailer of the film.