2022, R, 136 mins.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Sharp / Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp / Eiza González as Cam Thompson / Garret Dillahunt as Captain Monroe / Keir O'Donnell as FBI Agent Anson Clark / Cedric Sanders as Officer Mark / Jackson White as Officer ZachDirected by Michael Bay / Written by Chris Fedak
I thought that
I was going to need an ambulance after seeing AMBULANCE.
No hyperbole here, folks. This latest Michael Bay-hem directed action thriller literally made me sick while watching it.
This is one of
the most schizophrenically directed
and edited films that I've ever seen.
Every tool in Bay's tickle trunk of aesthetic horrors are utilized
throughout, and in the process I would make an easy claim that there are
very few shots contained within that last longer than 3-4 seconds. Some have described AMBULANCE as a "return to form"
for Bay. Huh? I found his incessant brand of attention deficit disorder
filmmaking here to be pretty on brand...if not on steroids throughout the
film's punishingly long 136 minutes.
This is just as insufferably unwatchable as any of the worst
entries in Bay's catalogue, with its only redeeming quality being some of
the actors giving it their all with material that's well beneath their
AMBULANCE's core premise, though, which could have worked astoundingly
well with just the right director at the helm: A bank robbery gone
horribly wrong leads to the crooks commandeering an ambulance, leading to
a massive extended car chase with police authorities through the dense and
populated streets of L.A.. All
I could think of as I left my screening of AMBULANCE was the limitless
possibilities here if a top tier Michael Mann or a George Miller were
allowed to quarterback the proceedings.
Well, Bay is no Mann or Miller, to be sure, and instead of
embracing all of the thrilling elements this premise offers up, he pummels
the film with the most visually disorienting (and nauseating)
cinematography (which appears to be the provided throughout with drone
cameras...more on that soon) that wallows in sinful self-indulgent excess.
It's almost as if Bay had no faith in this material (based on a
2005 Danish film) or the strong performance ensemble that he brought
together. The script and
actors are just mere props here that are being swallowed up whole by Bay's
fetishistic glee for undisciplined chaos. AMBULANCE is most assuredly all sound and fury signifying
And in holy
crap, what's he doing in a Bay film?! fashion, Jake Gyllenhaal plays
Danny, a career criminal and master bank robber that's about to embark on
the mother of all scores that will allow him to finally retire to a quiet
life (granted, like many Bay protagonists, Danny spends an awful lot of
time manically screaming at the top of his lungs in the film, which leads
to one wondering how quiet of a retirement he would actually have...but I
digress). The plan is to
steal a cool $32 million from a well fortified and guarded L.A. bank in
broad daylight. Concurrent to
this is the state of his estranged brother, Will (a quite good Yahya
Abdul-Mateen II, who just recently played a young Morpheus in THE
MATRIX RESURRECTIONS), an unemployed, debt riddled, and hopelessly
downtrodden military vet that's having a difficult time making ends meet and
securing insurance funding for the experimental surgery desperately needed
for his sick wife. Realizing
that's he has nowhere near the cash to afford such a procedure, Will
hooks back up with Danny in hopes of getting a much needed handout from
him. Danny offers him
something more lucrative, like a large piece of the $32 million pie that
he's about to take...but only if Will serves as his getaway driver.
With no other options in sight, Will begrudgingly agrees.
daylight robbery seems to be running smoothly, that is until
kind hearted, but nosey L.A.P.D. officer Zach (Jackson White) shows
up at the bank. He's not there because he senses something is afoul;
he's actually smitten with one of the bank tellers and wants to ask her
out for a date. When Danny
lets him inside it becomes clear to this rookie cop that the bank is being
held up, and all proverbial hell breaks loose, leading to extended
exchanges of gunfire with Danny, Will, and his team versus the L.A.P.D.,
which culminates with Danny and Will barely escaping, but not before the
former shoots and mortally wounds that horny cop (yeah, as Martin Lawrence
might say in BAD BOYS, shit just got real).
Scouting a nearby ambulance, Barry and Will take control of it at
gunpoint and force the EMT on duty, Cam (Eiza Gonzalez), to work on the
dying officer to ensure that he doesn't die (and lead to cop killer
chargers being levied), and all while trying to flee from L.A.'s finest -
overseen by police Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI agent Clark
(Keir O' Donnell) - in a cat and mouse game of high speed pursuit.
Let's cut to the
chase (no pun intended) and talk about Bay's filmmaking methods here,
which wholeheartedly lack subtlety and nuance.
It's beyond clear very early on that Bay and cinematographer
Roberto De Angelis have discovered drones and all of the dizzying extremes
that using drone photography can yield to this production.
Initially, some of the early shots - which zoom, zip, dive up and
down skyscrapers and through areas altogether impossible with conventional
camera rigs - are kind of nifty, but Bay uses them over...and over...and
over again to the point where it induces headaches and numbing
fatigue. Sometimes, there's
no rhyme or reason for where the camera shots begin or end, and beyond
that the cutting together of said shots with the other footage is so
breakneck and hyperactive that making geographical sense of the
particulars of the film's extended chase sequence is all but impossible.
Everything in AMBULANCE is so aggressively adrenalized.
Hell, even quiet and would-be introspective moments between
characters simply talking to one another involves Bay's in-your-face
theatrics of his camera inexplicably careening and swooping in and out and
around the actors. It becomes
hard for the characters and actors to shine here because Bay simply
doesn't allow them to command the screen for longer than a few
seconds at a time. The
filmmaker's worst creative sins are on full display in AMBULANCE, and it's
clear that he favors eye fatiguing overkill over generating real palpable
tension out of his film's unique closed quartered concept.
things is the paper thin scripting, which often dabbles in the absurd when
it isn't flipping the bird to basic logic.
AMBULANCE features, for my money, some of the dumbest career crooks
ever to grace the screen. Just
consider Danny's plan to perpetrate what he describes as the largest bank
heist in California's history. Are
we truly expected to believe that a "master criminal" like Danny
that has poured his life savings and months upon months of meticulous prep
into this score would not have any type of contingency plan whatsoever if
the robbery failed? Does he not have multiple escape plans/routes?
Also, why would he just hire a new
getaway driver like Will on the spot and the day of the robbery? Danny
is established as someone that has robbed banks since he was a teenager
and learned his trade from his legendary thieving father, but his latest
score goes off the rails because he allows a cop into the bank
that...well...just wanted to score with a cute teller.
Would the criminals of Michael Mann's HEAT have ever allowed for
this to happen? As the film
progresses Danny and his accomplice in Will emerge as beyond hapless and
are just improvising as they go. This
strains credulity to the max. And
speaking of maximizing things, Gyllenhaal's portrayal of this
"mastermind" is so unhealthily unhinged, histrionic, and
overbearing that it's almost as if he snorted a Tony Montana sized pile of
cocaine before each take. I've always maintained that he's is one of the best actors to
have never won an Oscar, but he's unconvincingly over the top in AMBULANCE
(BTW, if you want to see him in much better form in a remake of a Danish
thriller, seek out last year's terribly overlooked THE
And on the
subject of over the top, just consider the film's other laundry list of
head shakingly implausible scenarios.
In one grotesque sequence, Gonzalez's beleaguered EMT is forced to
work with Will to perform an impromptu operation on the dying cop's
soon-to-be-ruptured spleen while in the ambulance that's bobbing and
weaving violently through traffic (they do this via video call with actual
Later in the film the cop that had his stomach opened up and
multiple hands plunged into it wakes up and appears no worse for wear and
acts like he just had a casual nap (uh...yeah...right).
There's another wickedly stupid moment when the police captain
momentarily calls off the chase because his chronically fluctuating dog is
discovered to be in the lead pursuit car (oh, you gotta be kiddin' me).
Later on, there's a sequence involving a muscle car with a
mannequin and an attached Gatling gun (just...don't...ask).
I don't have a problem with rampant silliness in movies.
SPEED - which this film also tries to lazily pilfer from - definitely had
its share of laughably impossible moments, but that film winked at its
audiences and let them in on the gags, whereas Bay just shows nihilistic
contempt for his viewers and simply doesn't care.
Oh, and make sure you bring some Tylenol to your screening. You're going to need it.