A classic high-speed heist
Michael Bay's latest flick Ambulance delivers the action but falls short of providing a memorable story
The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Michael Bay movies are the explosions, gunfire and scenes of cars flipping or helicopters falling from the sky in slow-motion. The man is like a filmmaker on steroids when it comes to big production. No matter how big or small the story is, Bay always finds a way to add explosions and make a big deal out of it. After his success in franchises like Bad Boys and Transformers, Bay has gone on to create the likes of Pain & Gain (2013) and 6 Underground (2019). His latest project, Ambulance, marks Bay's first directorial effort release since the pandemic began in 2020. Ambulance comes to local cinemas today, three weeks before North America where it is scheduled to release on April 8.
Based on a 2005 Danish film of the same name by Laurits Munch-Petersen, Bay's version tells the story of what happens in a single day in Los Angeles in which war veteran William Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is desperate for money to cover his wife's surgery. He decides to reach out to one person he knows he shouldn't -- his estranged adoptive brother and life-long criminal Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), who offers him US$32 million in the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history. With his wife's survival on the line, William can't say no. But when their escape plan goes spectacularly wrong, the pair hijack an ambulance with an emergency medical technician Cam Thompson (Eiza González) onboard. In a high-speed pursuit that never stops, Danny and William take on the law and somehow try not to kill each other while executing the most insane getaway the city has ever seen.
The film begins with a few idyllic shots of Los Angeles and the words "It was a beautiful morning in Los Angeles" on the screen. All the letters in this phrase disappear except L and A, which slowly slide together until the word ambulance forms around them. In the first 30 minutes, the movie takes its time to introduce our main characters and their motives by showing flashbacks of their childhood. The beginning might feel slow at times, but once the action starts, there's no slowing down.
As you can expect from a Bay movie, Ambulance has plenty of explosions, slow-motion action, big CGI set pieces and hot babes. Bay has no problems with action sequences. He also has no problem trying to manipulate the audience emotionally with a parade of stunning visuals and sound effects. However, there's nothing new in the premise of Ambulance and the story of a team of criminals who break into a bank in broad daylight and when there is a problem during the escape, they take a female hostage. It feels almost like a mix between Speed (1994) and The Town (2010) in one movie. However, what Ambulance doesn't have like those movies is a really good story.
Both Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II did a fine job as two brothers with clashing opinions who engage in back and forth banter that is believable and realistic. But their characters as good thief and bad thief, as well as the scenarios they face in this film, are mediocre at best. González is perhaps best known for her rebellious character in Baby Driver (2017) and I Care A Lot (2020), but sadly, her role here as a paramedic is uninteresting and one-dimensional. Moreover, she is almost made to look like a carbon copy of Megan Fox from Transformers. However, the weakest part of Ambulance is probably the dialogue. There is hardly any conversation in this movie that is interesting. Most of the interactions are pretentious, especially among gang members. Even the silly jokes the movie tries to include in the dialogue between characters are overkill. While there are some memorable lines, we have to admit Bay has made many bad movies in his career. Of course, the man has a loyal fan base who enjoy watching big-budget, high-octane action which he's never failed to deliver.
His style may work better with stories like a sports car turning into a robot, or funny buddy cops fighting crimes, but in tackling a serious story of two brothers robbing a bank and fighting their way to escape, we need something more profound and characters we want to root for, which is unfortunately not the case in Ambulance. So apart from all the fun action sequences, we have a predictable story of bank robbers, their terrible dialogue, and a story split between their lives past and present, but none of it is interesting or memorable enough for a rewatch.
- Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza González
- Directed by Michael Bay