'Ambulance' Is Unapologetically Michael Bay

Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Jackson White, Olivia Stambouliah

Photo: Andrew Cooper / Universal Pictures

BY Rachel HoPublished Apr 8, 2022

Maybe it's because of the last two years of impending doom, or maybe it's the bleak 24-hour news cycle, but Ambulance is exactly the movie we all need right now. Michael Bay returns with an extraordinarily cheesy, excessively styled, downright silly film that is a ridiculous amount of fun and very entertaining. 

Bay is back in Los Angeles and wastes no time. After a brief setup, we learn that Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a war veteran whose wife requires experimental surgery that insurance won't cover. Will turns to his brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is prepping for a bank heist that afternoon with a $32 million payout. Will reluctantly joins Danny, and the two set out with the rest of Danny's crew. Of course, the heist goes wrong, as rookie cop Zach (Jackson White) insists on entering the branch to hit on a bank teller he's been eyeing. 

As luck would have it, the LAPD's Special Investigation Section (SIS) has been tracking Danny and his crew and were parked outside the bank when everything went sideways. In the ensuing escape, Will shoots Zach, who is loaded into an ambulance and is under the care of EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza González). Will and Danny are trapped in the bank's parking garage and decide to commandeer the ambulance as their escape vehicle, with Cam and Zach as their hostages. 

From here, Ambulance is a straight cops-and-robbers chase around downtown Los Angeles. While I'm certain Bay didn't invent the idea of dynamic camerawork, he certainly takes the concept and turns it up to 11. Bay takes the camera on a ride, sweeping around every corner, soaring down buildings, and, of course, circling around our central characters. It's excessive and entirely unnecessary, but it is unapologetically Michael Bay, which is the strength of Ambulance.

Rather than showing restraint, Bay goes full-on Bay. From the cheesy dialogue to the ludicrous storyline, Bay uses every trick in his book. A triumphant score by Lorne Balfe accents every moment of suspense and heroics with loud horns and percussion that complements the fanfare of the camera beautifully.

The one glaring Bay element missing from Ambulance is the explosions. While there are plenty of car crashes and blowouts, Ambulance lacks the same degree of CGI-enhanced explosions of Bay's previous films, which is possibly due to budgetary issues and/or COVID restrictions.

One person who isn't lacking in explosiveness, though, is Gyllenhaal. Having built a career playing weird, troubled characters, Gyllenhaal is clearly having a blast playing an unhinged maniac trying to prove he's just as dangerous as his father. He's given a great deal of scenery to chew on, and Gyllenhaal makes a delightful meal out of it. 

Abdul-Mateen II and González are no slouches either. The two play off of Gyllenhaal's manic behaviour well while adding their own individuality. Abdul-Mateen II and Gyllenhaal's chemistry as brothers with opposing ideals works very well. Among the nondescript police officers, Olivia Stambouliah stands out as quippy Lieutenant Dhazghig, leading the SIS in tracking Danny and Will's location. Stambouliah does well making a small role memorable. 

If you go into Ambulance expecting a thought-provoking, existential film about the state of our society and the intricacies of human behaviour, you're doing it wrong. Of course, the dialogue is ridiculous (and arguably played for laughs at this point), and the general premise of the film has as many holes as a shot-up cop car. But, Ambulance is incredibly entertaining and, when played in a theatre, it's a great movie to share with an audience.

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