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Film Review: ‘Ambulance’ is an Exhausting Yet Mostly Exhilarating Michael Bay Action Epic

Universal Pictures

You go into a Michael Bay movie with a certain set level of expectations. Without really any exceptions, Bay traffics in action mayhem, with a kinetic feeling of adrenaline rushing through your body. Everything else is secondary. Occasionally, he stumbles upon a fun thrill ride. More often than not, his films are a chore, at least to me. With Ambulance, however, Bay has one of his more effective and successful outings. At the same time, it’s so purely designed to just thrill, while being the car chase to end all car chases, it loses any of the heart it’s attempting to have. It’s upper echelon Bay, so it’s simply a matter of what that means to you. Pardon the pun, but your mileage may vary with Ambulance. For me, it was fun until it became exhausting.

Ambulance has what seems like a solid 90 minutes of an extended chase sequence at its core. With largely practical effects and all the directing tricks in the book, it begins with a fair amount of promise. Then, it goes on…and on…and on. At a certain point, you just want something new to happen, but Bay just doubles down. Some may love it. Me? I wanted something more, or at least something a bit different by the end.

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Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a former Marine with money problems. Insurance isn’t going to cover experimental surgery for his wife and options are limited. Needing to provide for his wife and young child, he contacts his adopted brother Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal), who he’s been estranged from. While Will has gone straight, Danny is a high end thief. Will wants a loan, but Danny instead ropes him into a bank heist, offering him millions instead of just the cost of surgery. It’s supposed to be a simple bank robbery. Bet you can’t guess if that’s the case or not…

Danny’s crew concerns Will, but it’s the entrance of a young LAPD officer (Jackson White) that complicates the robbery. Before long, the crew is dead, Will has been forced to shoot the cop, and the brothers wind up taking the cop and EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza González) hostage. Thus begins a chase around Los Angeles, with cops like Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell) in pursuit. Is there any way out for Danny and Will? And what of Cam?

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Both Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal are solid here, though this is more a movie star role than something asking for a ton of acting prowess. They give their characters some layers, but they don’t have the depth needed to truly care for them. The same goes for Eiza González, just to a larger extent because she has a bit less screen time. Garret Dillahunt has some good lines, but he’s largely wasted. In addition to Keir O’Donnell and Jackson White, the supporting players include Moses Ingram, Cedric Sanders, Olivia Stambouliah, and Colin Woodell.

Director Michael Bay certainly a found a script by Chris Fedak that gave him ample opportunities for action chaos. There’s minimal character development and some odd choices in the back half, but when it comes to Bay related mayhem, Ambulance delivers. It’s just a matter of it all becoming exhausting, and that’s before they introduce gangsters. That’s a poor choice, as it expands things in all of the wrong ways.

Ambulance will please Michael Bay fans and those hungry for an action epic. Anyone wanting depth or something more will be disappointed, but who is looking for that here? It’s a throwback to an older time for action. If you set your expectations properly, this should satisfy. Take that for what iit’s worth here.

SCORE: ★★1/2


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Robert Hamer
1 year ago

If there’s no point when a character stops the movie dead in its tracks to explain the intricacies of Texas’ Romeo & Juliet law, that’s already an upgrade in my book.


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