Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eliza Gonzalez, Moses Ingram, Garret Dillahunt, Jackson White, Cedric Sanders
Michael Bay’s association with film has come to mean a very specific product over the years. The ambitious director has given us movies like “Transformers” 1 through 5, “Bad Boys” 1 and 2, and “Armageddon.” Under Bay’s direction everything is cranked up beyond acceptable levels, overblown and overexaggerated.
In many ways Bay reflects what one might consider the epitome of American exploitation when concerning violence and excess in Hollywood. His latest endeavor combines the thrill of “Speed” and the outlandish medical anomalies of “Grey’s Anatomy,” sprinkled with a bits of “Fast & Furious.” “Ambulance” is essentially a Jason Statham flick, falsely elevated by the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal. Like most of Bay’s films, this one is better viewed with your brain in hibernate mode.
Desperate to get out of a financial crisis, veteran and new dad Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen) meets with his reckless, criminal brother Danny (Gyllenhaal) to stage a $32 million heist. “The guns are just for show,” Danny says, selling his brother on an easy score that’s supposedly planned perfectly. Nothing goes according to this plan, and Will finds himself behind the wheel of an ambulance, an injured cop on the gurney, Danny coming unhinged and Cam Thompson (Eiza González), the best EMT in Los Angeles, frantically working to diffuse multiple situations. With Will experienced in combat and Danny a study of all law enforcement tactical situations, they wreak havoc on the City of Angels as LAPD, SWAT and the FBI follow them by land and air.
What starts off as an intense back robbery and hostage situation, grounded mostly in realty, transitions to unrestrained absurdity.
Bay’s frenetic display of camera work and editing is completely unnecessary as shots take the viewer up iconic buildings in downtown LA and down the other side like a roller coaster. The obsession with spiraling camera angles, a neat trick the first time, becomes another example of cinematic exuberance. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should; Bay’s direction to every technical department on the film is sensory overload. Ambulance is also one of the most edited films of all time. The jump cuts are worse than even “Don’t Look Up.” Bay’s narcissism bleeds into the script, as characters reference his movie titles “The Rock” and “Bad Boys.”
What starts off as an intense back robbery and hostage situation, grounded mostly in realty, transitions to unrestrained absurdity. One of the breaking points is a complex surgery performed inside a speeding ambulance being chased by police. It’s a gory stunt that will have even Meredith Gray stans crying foul. While Gyllenhaal’s performance is wild and unpredictable, even his association with the film can’t save it from meaningless entertainment. Gyllenhaal is the marquee name to sell tickets, however, Bay is most interested in showcasing Megan Fox 2.0, Eiza González (“Baby Driver,” “Hobbs & Shaw,”) no stranger to high octane car chase flicks. “Ambulance” doesn’t offer the viewer anything to mull over; the character development is paper thin. Over two hours of expensive theatrics are forgotten as soon as the next flashy action flick lands.
Ambulance is a frenetic experience, over-edited, dripping with excess on every level, yet has nothing to say.