Ambulance Review: Bay’s latest is an enjoyable, action-packed thrill ride
Michael Bay’s latest film, Ambulance, delivers the explosive action many would expect to see from the prolific director, but shows a stronger side to Bay’s filmmaking that makes it a fun and thoroughly suspenseful experience.
Ambulance, based on Laurits Munch-Petersen and Lars Andreas Pedersen’s 2005 Danish film of the same name, follows a pair of brothers who find themselves on the run from the LAPD after a bank robbery goes wrong and their attempt to get away in an ambulance only makes things worse as it has a paramedic attempting to save a dying cop on board. At face value, Ambulance looks and acts exactly like a standard action flick from Bay. The cinematography from Roberto De Angelis looks exactly like Bay’s other films with this intense lighting that makes every character look like they’re in a constant sweat. The tone of its comedy and character interactions is aggressive and smug and the action is so “Michael Bay.”
Bay’s last film, 6 Underground, seemed like the most “Michael Bay” film to date, but the wild camera angles throughout Ambulance might give it a run for its money. Seriously, there are some shots in this film that are completely insane with how the camera just shoots down from the sky and whips around areas with no real purpose or direction. It’s definitely an unnecessary and distracting part of Bay’s filmmaking that can make for a nauseating and confusing visual experience. Not to mention, with how it constantly repeats and extends scenes for no good reason, it just comes off like terrible padding trying to come off as “cool” and “epic,” which it rarely does.
Bay’s direction with the dialogue can also be a detriment to Ambulance’s characters as their blunt first impressions can give off a toxic vibe that’s rarely shaken. For the most part though, the dialogue can have some charm to it as the performances lean into the fun aspects of this style well and the writing from Chris Fedak has some really great one-liners and snappy exchanges. In these aspects, Ambulance can just seem like another action flick from Bay, and it mostly is, but there are some unexpectedly stronger elements to it that Bay nails well.
The storytelling is surprisingly strong at times with there being some good emotional threads that connect you some characters. The introductions for characters like resilient paramedic Cam (Eiza Gonzalez) and reluctant robber Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) have some good personal heart to them. Will’s struggles post-serving in the military are captured in a very real light and do a good job setting up his motivations. Cam’s ability to stay calm under pressure, which is constantly tested throughout the film, is showcased in an incredibly gut-wrenching and tense scene of her helping someone in need. There are honestly some solid character arcs presented that make Ambulance almost feel like a return to Bay’s better original films, like Armageddon. However, it’s a shame that the impact of these storylines can’t be maintained throughout.
While the film does utilize its large cast of characters well with how it shifts between their stories fluidly, a lot of emotional potential of the story doesn’t last as the aggressive personalities overshadow the more character-driven parts of the story. The performances from Mateen and Gonzalez, who delivers one of her strongest performances, certainly do their best, but just aren’t a big enough focus in this film. Now, that doesn’t mean that Ambulance’s story is a lost cause because there are a lot of fun performances and moments that keep it entertaining. Although it would’ve been nice to have Will and his brother Danny’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) brotherly bond delved into more just so it realistically seems stronger, Gyllenhaal’s performance as Danny is unhinged in the best way possible and he totally thrives in the chaos.
Ambulance is also an interesting shift for Bay as a filmmaker since it’s less focused on non-stop explosive action and delivers more thrilling suspense. It’s an elaborate chase filled with edge of your seat moments full of strong tension making it more exciting when things finally explode and go pedal to the metal. Even for its fast-paced moments though, Ambulance’s central chase can feel a little drawn out making the film feel like an eternity. Even with its long runtime though, Ambulance still manages to be a lot of fun and has some good moments and committed performances, including a delightful song sequence, you can’t help but love.
Ambulance is an action thrill ride that can be derailed by some of Bay’s usual trappings and extremely aggressive filmmaking but manages to keep itself entertaining and thrilling enough to want to strap in and take in its sights.
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