Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Sharp
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp
Eiza González as EMT Cam Thompson
Director: Michael Bay
Needing money to cover his wife’s medical bills, a decorated veteran teams up with his adoptive brother to steal $32 million from a Los Angeles bank. However, when their getaway goes spectacularly wrong, the desperate thieves hijack an ambulance that’s carrying a severely wounded cop and an EMT worker. Caught in a high-speed chase, the two siblings must figure out a way to outrun the law while keeping their hostages alive.
I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Michael Bay fan, but I liked the movies that I saw from him. Ambulance is his latest movie, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal. From the trailers, it looked like it could be a lot of fun, so I went into it open minded. While I do have my issues with the movie, I really enjoyed it, even more than I expected to.
This is definitely Michael Bay’s take on a heist movie, you feel it through and through and that’s what made it stand out for me. The story and script are fairly simple and nothing original, it isn’t one of the best of the genre. The plot can be predictable, and the writing can be cheesy, especially with the dialogue. As you can expect with this being a Bay movie, it’s over the top and implausible, even outside of the action and destruction. There are particularly some moments involving surgery which are laughably farfetched. However, it’s approached in a certain way that these silly moments make it fun to watch, it clearly isn’t aiming for realism. In some ways its comparable to some of the action movies from the 80s and 90s. There is also a sense of self-awareness to it, even having a scene where it references two of Michael Bay’s own movies. There is a good amount of humour and quirky characters (some of them are hit or miss), but it’s also Michael Bay’s most emotional movie, especially with the stories of the main three characters. It is a bit overlong at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it would’ve be better if it was cut down a little. While everything involving the main trio of characters are captivating, the unnecessary flashbacks and the amount of time focused on the random supporting characters definitely pads out the runtime. From the moment that the characters get on the ambulance, the movie doesn’t stop. I will say though that before the actual heist, the pacing is a bit too slow.
I thought that the performances are quite good. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play 2 bank robbers and brothers and are very good in their parts. Gyllenhaal is wonderfully unhinged and insane in his part, giving it a lot of energy. Yahya is great as a guy who gets stuck in the situation and conveys his desperation greatly. Eiza Gonzalez completes this trio of main characters as an EMT caught up in the heist as a hostage while trying to keep someone alive in the ambulance. She really is the heart and soul of the movie, she gets a lot to do here. She goes through her own arc, and she pulls it off convincingly; it’s the best acting work and role I’ve seen for her. There’s also a fair amount of decent supporting performances in their memorable roles. While there is a bit too much screentime given to them, they are fun.
You can definitely tell that this is a Michael Bay movie with his direction. I have to say, it is nice to see a blockbuster released these days where you can actually feel the filmmaker’s style throughout. While Bay’s trademarks and habits do make expected appearances, Ambulance is comparatively restrained, and it works. The budget is fairly modest compared to most modern blockbusters at $40 million, yet it is better directed and unique than most modern blockbusters. The cinematography might not work for some people, there is an overuse of handheld cameras, but I liked it. Something that’s definitely present throughout is the use of drones for filming action. It’s not just a substitute for helicopter shots of the city. Along with floating and dropping the camera around the city, the camera zooms in and around the action as the carnage unfolds. The drone work is spectacular, you even see the drone fly under a car as its going over a ramp at one point. It’s a Michael Bay movie, so as you would expect the action is over the top and no one does destruction like him. The action is intense, and there’s a lot of violence end destruction. There’s plenty of high speed chases (90% of the movie is a chase) with car rolls, shootouts and explosions. At times the chaos can be a bit too much but I’m glad for it. Another thing that helps is Lorne Balfe’s composed score which elevates the tension. All these technical elements came together to make for a satisfying cinema experience for me.
Ambulance certainly won’t work for everyone, especially for those who strongly dislike Michael Bay’s style. But I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. It does have its issues, mostly with the writing. It could’ve been shorter, some of it is a bit messy and at times it is too implausible for its own good (even if I enjoy it for that). However, the performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez as well as Michael Bay’s unique direction, style and action made this for an enjoyable movie. For what it’s worth, it’s one of Bay’s best movies.