Director: Michael Bay. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez, Garret Dillahunt. 15, 136 minutes.
While Britain clapped for its stewards, America gave to them ambulance — a detonation of raw Michael Bayness that both elevates the ambulance worker’s role and reduces it to a symbol of pure, red-blooded patriotism. It’s as tiring as it is exciting, just as you’d expect and want from a Bay film. Will emergency workers be affected by such an honor? Perhaps as far as you can be honored by a film that aims to give people a taste of what it’s like to be on steroids.
Bay, aged 57, has entered the cruise control phase of his career. His style is now so defined, so inimitable, that the bombast has become almost casual. ambulance seems to have been a simple case of Bay picking up an obscure 2005 Danish action film – dubbed ambulance – to adapt it into English and then cobble together a 38 day shoot and a convoy of vehicles to turn around. It’s impressive, but mostly for how much you know it will have upset the citizens of Los Angeles.
Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a hero, which Bay tells us within 30 seconds of meeting him by showing us a folded American flag in her display case next to a book with the title “AFGHANISTAN” emblazoned on the spine. Do you think this guy might be a war veteran? Will’s wife Amy (Moses Ingram) needs urgent surgery. When his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) invites him on the heist to stop all heists – a $32 million bank job that dwarfs anything their crime-fighting father has ever done – he has a very hard time saying no accept. Allow an expression of instant regret as Will and Danny find themselves in a hijacked ambulance alongside medical worker Cam (Eiza González) and a bleeding cop with half the LAPD in their sights.
Abdul-Mateen and Gyllenhaal are compelling opposites. Abdul-Mateen—from candy man and The Matrix Resurrections – has the fresh and eager vibe of an aspiring movie star. Gyllenhaal has the restless, edgy quality of someone who feels like they’ve been a movie star for too long. He leans hard into the bug-eyed sociopathy of his post-Moth years ago, at one point screaming out loud, “I wish I didn’t have herpes, but we all have to live with what we have.”
Bay has always insisted that his films be non-political and, with ambulance, he is mostly right. It’s so short-sighted in its focus on the innate “goodness” of Will and Cam’s actions that there’s no real context to argue with. You’re not cheering one side or the other of the ambulance hunt – you’re only here for the chaos. And in true Bay form, all that matters is that his main characters stay alive. The mass killings of pedestrians are an off-screen issue as cars race through LA’s seemingly endless supply of street stalls.
ambulance is a purely aesthetic beast, made for those who like their movies to look like they were cut by someone in the middle of a panic attack – for some reason there are about 300 cuts in a scene just off Danny insists on telling someone they look like Mel Gibson. Lorne Balfe’s aggressively sombre score is paired with a steady stream of drone shots that tumble down buildings, zoom across freeways and tumble around with inhuman grace. It feels like watching through the eyes of a monster that just crawled out of the La Brea tar pits. Bay lapsed into self-parody a long time ago. Then again, that’s half the appeal of these films.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/ambulance-review-jake-gyllenhaal-b2043166.html Ambulance Review: Michael Bay’s grueling chase film looks like it was edited in the middle of a panic attack