Review – Ambulance

Before reading this review, I’m going to ask you, the reader, to mentally fill out this quick survey.

  • Do you like explosions?
  • Do you like high octane car chases?
  • Do you like tense gun fights?
  • Do you like Jake Gyllenhaal?
  • Do you like explosions?

If you answered one or more of these questions ‘yes’, then Michael Bay’s latest cinematic equivalent to being on a rollercoaster going faster than it should be is the movie for you!

Ambulance stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as brothers who have walked different paths in their lives. Will Sharp (Abdul-Mateen II) is a military veteran who is struggling to financially cover his wife’s expensive surgery. Constantly on the phone to insurance companies or potential job opportunities leading nowhere, Will one day decides to visit his brother, Danny Sharp (Gyllenhaal) for a loan of $231,000.

On this fateful day, and much to Danny’s luck, Will arrives to Danny’s garage only to discover Danny and his criminal crew are about to pull off a bank heist worth $32 million, and there is a spot for Will on the team. Initially hesitant but thinking of his family, Will joins the heist which quickly goes awry when a police officer thwarts their attempt, a move that proves dangerous for the cop when he is shot in the stomach and begins the fight for his life. With all their escape options gone bust, Danny and Will hijack an ambulance with the dying cop and the EMT keeping him alive, Cam Johnston (Eiza Gonzalez), leading to a destructive and adrenaline filled chase throughout Los Angeles.

Bay’s choice to focus the film’s first 15 minutes of the human narrative of Will’s plight does work for the emotional investment into Will’s surprisingly fleshed out character (in fairness, fleshed out for a typical Michael Bay film). The scenes of Will frustratingly dealing with the rejection of insurance claims and experimental medicine options for his wife add just enough substance to feel sympathetic to Will’s reluctant decision to join his brother on this heist, and Abdul-Mateen’s performance only proves that even in a role that’s not as substance filled as previous roles, he can still convincingly create emotional investment.

Even Will’s back and forth with Danny before the heist (which serves as Danny’s introduction to the audience) manages to lay a strong foundation for Danny as the fast-talking, psychotically energetic madman who believes he can pull off a $32 million heist in broad daylight, all in just one 5-minute scene of dialogue. Gyllenhaal’s manic energy and full commitment to the Bay-hem makes him a despicably enjoyable performance that carries so much of the film’s energy… outside of all the explosions and gunfights and cars crashing!

 

However, the film’s slow on-ramp of emotion soon goes full speed ahead in true Bay-hem style once the incredibly intense bank robbery occurs. Bay never stops moving the camera in his signature frantic style, right from the opening moments. And once he introduces elaborate drone shots that fly inside and outside of the bank during the heist add this level of excitement to an already immersive filmmaking style. Drones fly over the action, while small camera-mounted RX cars speed along the ground, capturing the action from all angles and levels.

It’s from this point that Ambulance starts its adrenaline dump and bombards the screen and speakers with so many explosions, crashes, and bullets that it feels ridiculous in the best way possible! In classic Michael Bay fashion, the action is a level of insanity that only he can pull off. Hundreds of cars crash in the most violent way, with explosions coming out of places that don’t make sense in a slow motion that lets all its glory be displayed vividly and beautiful on screen. The booming and pounding of bullets hitting metal are felt in spades.

Even outside of the action, a scene halfway through the film featuring arguably the film’s hero, EMT Cam (Gonzalez), manages to be the most heart-stopping, thrilling moment without a single bullet being fired or explosion lighting up the sky! And it’s not just this scene in which Gonzales manages to hold the intensity, but her ability to keep grounded and calm in the chaos, plus match the energies of Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen make her an interesting protagonist that feels worthy of cheer in her heroic moments!

While the action is in typical Michael Bay fashion, he is also in classic form (and not necessarily in a good way) with some misplaced humour that seeps through in moments that don’t need levity. Often coming in the form of cringey one liners, of which some work, but mostly fall flat. Another flaw in the explosive fun is the addition of FBI Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell) who feels like a redundant scene filler, extending the run time unnecessarily when Captain Monroe (Garrett Dillahunt) already assumes the role of law enforcement chasing down the two brothers. To put it plainly, there’s too many cops in this kitchen, and the pacing of the film is heavily affected by it.

Once the first bullet flies, Ambulance DOES NOT STOP. It’s genuinely 2 straight hours of intensity, adrenaline, and excitement that some may find exhausting, but those looking for a thrill ride will find it so damn entertaining. Gyllenhaal goes full Bay-hem acting wise, but Abdul-Mateen and Gonzalez hold their own as the heroes of the film! Ambulance is pure action, through and through, and feels like a welcomed return to form for Michael Bay!

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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