Ambulance (2022) Movie Review
Action / Thriller
Michael Bay is known for his love of big, explosive action movies and "Ambulance" is no exception. The movie, a remake of the 2005 Danish film "Ambulancen", is about two brothers who turn to bank robbery to pay for their sick relative's medical bills. However, in Bay's version, the recipient of the money is the protagonist's sick wife, which adds more tension to the story. The ensuing heist goes wrong, and the duo must hijack an ambulance to escape from the police. However, the poor sap dying in the back of the stolen ambulance is a wounded cop, and the duo must save him while avoiding the law enforcement's pursuit.
The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Sharp, a career criminal, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as his adopted sibling, a struggling veteran named Will. The film opens on a manipulative note, showing Amy (Moses Ingram), Will's saintly wife, who is suffering from cancer. The couple's finances are stretched to their limits, and they are desperately trying to find a way to pay for Amy's upcoming surgery. Danny offers Will a payday of $8 million, and the botched robbery is where the story begins.
Cam Thompson (Eiza González) is the best EMT in Los Angeles, and she is introduced as the film's third lead. She is able to keep anyone alive for 20 minutes, but she is cynical and hardened, having seen it all. She becomes the hostage of Danny and Will's stolen ambulance, and her experience reignites her passion for saving lives. The ambulance takes off on a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles, and the stakes escalate as Cam performs a life-saving procedure with the help of two trauma surgeons who FaceTime in from a golf course. Blood is spurting from the cop's wound in squishy geysers, and Danny is behind the wheel, mowing down traffic cones and speeding the wrong way up highway overpasses at 60 mph. Will is attached to the body on the stretcher, serving as a human blood bag like in "Mad Max: Fury Road." An FBI hostage negotiator is on the phone, demanding to know what the hell is going on. Everyone is screaming, and then Cam's laptop goes dead. She has to finish the surgery on her own, and the cop's spleen bursts.
Bay's shooting style is hyper-kinetic, and the combination of volatile drone photography and frenetic editing makes it difficult to tell at times who's chasing whom and in what direction. The flaming cop cars flying in all directions don't help the legibility issue. However, if you surrender to the chaos and allow your brain cells to scatter like so much fruit sent whizzing through the air as the titular vehicle crashes through an LA street market, "Ambulance" is a blast, a disorienting, overly long blast, but a blast nonetheless. Bay seems to be having fun, too, as he stuffs the film with as many comic relief moments as he does everything else, casts his own dog in an absurd cameo role, and allows multiple references.
One of the most significant changes Bay makes to the original Danish film is the tone. The original "Ambulancen" is a tense, low-key thriller, whereas Bay's version is a big, over-the-top action extravaganza. Bay's style is not for everyone, and the film's length, clocking in at 136 minutes, may be too much for some viewers. However, if you're a fan of Bay's style, you'll find plenty to enjoy here. The movie is all peak and no valley, a breathless roller coaster ride that will leave you feeling exhilarated.
But beneath all the bombast and chaos, there's a heart to "Ambulance." The relationship between Danny and Will is at the center of the film, and both Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II bring a surprising amount of depth to their roles. Danny's recklessness and love for his brother clash with Will's sense of duty and desire to protect his family, and it's that conflict that ultimately drives the film. Even as the action gets bigger and more ridiculous, the emotional stakes remain grounded in the bond between these two very different men.
Of course, "Ambulance" is still very much a Michael Bay film, and as such it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. If you're looking for nuance or subtlety, you're in the wrong place. But if you're in the mood for a loud, dumb, and thrilling ride, this movie delivers in spades. It's a throwback to the kind of movies that used to play in grindhouses and drive-ins, the kind of movies that were made to be experienced with a rowdy crowd and a big bucket of popcorn. And while it may not be high art, it's definitely high entertainment.
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