Ambulance (Movie Review)

Ambulance (Movie Review)

Michael Bay (Bad Boyz 1995, Transformers 2007) is back, and he is going all classy with an adaptation of a European film. The 2005 Danish film Ambulancen by Lauritis Munch-Petersen (The Dolphin 2017) and Lars Andreas Petersen (Below the Belt 2006) to be precise. Only Director/Producer Bay and Screenwriter Chris Fedak (Chuck series, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow series) shift the action to Los Angeles, hence the emphasis on ‘LA’ in ‘Ambulance.’ New Republic Pictures, Endeavor Content, Project X Entertainment and, of course, Bay Films came together to produce the picture, with Universal Pictures distributing the film in US on Friday, April 8, 2022.

Ambulance still. © 2021 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Here, US Army veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II: Aquaman 2018, Us 2019) is in desperate need of $231,000 to pay for surgery for his wife Amy (Moses Ingram: Candace 2018, The Tragedy of Macbeth 2021). He goes to his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal: Donnie Darko 2001, The Day After Tomorrow 2004) for help, and he suggests that he joins him on a bank heist worth $32 million. Things go drastically downhill when they take a cop, Officer Zach (Jackson White: The Middle series, Mrs Fletcher 2019), hostage.

The LAPD’s big guns kill off the whole crew bar Will and Danny, who escape by commandeering an ambulance. One that just so happens to have an EMT, Cam Thompson (Eiza González: Baby Driver 2017, Godzilla Vs Kong 2021), treating Zach. The two now have to find a way out of the city and away from choppers, trucks and the FBI, while keeping the cop alive.

It is an interesting premise, and it could have worked. But it is a Michael Bay film. It would be enough to leave it at that, yet that would not be fair to Bay or anyone else. Still, it suffers from a lot of issues that Bay’s films have suffered from since the 1990s. That is not necessarily referring to the bangs, booms and explosions. If anything, they are the best part of the film- executed effectively and complimented with some nice stunts.

Ambulance still. © 2021 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The issue with Bayhem is that every other aspect is as subtle as his stunts. It is not enough for Gyllenhaal and Mateen to be adoptive brothers. Their childhoods memories have to be shown in glurgy flashbacks that drip with cheese, or in bog-standard exposition that probably could have done with footage more than two kids playing cowboys. Likewise, Mateen’s scenes with his wife have to be sickly sweet in their depiction of hardship. How could a US Army veteran be dealt such a bad hand? Especially when it gets put way on the back burner for a long while before popping up again near the end.

The same goes for the comedy, which is perhaps the most excruciating part. The drama sometimes works, and things can actually get tense and suspenseful. They just get deflated and ruined by some doofy gag that comes out of nowhere. Like the SIS Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt: 12 Years A Slave 2013, Deadwood series) making quips about Lewis Hamilton (“Is he a basketball player?”) or making a poop joke involving his dog. FBI Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell: Wedding Crashers 2005, American Sniper 2014) could be expositing about how dangerous Danny can be, before getting ragged on for his ‘so white’ holiday plans (“Well, I am white, I can’t help that”).

Still, the performances are solid enough. Mateen gets all serious as the ‘good brother,’ and González fits the bill as the EMT with an aloof, hard façade. Yet their characters are rather stock, so they do not give the actors much to work with. Dillahunt and Clark, likewise, should be the law enforcers wanting to stop this wild ambulance ride, but are undercut by their dumb dialogue. Gyllenhaal ends up doing the standout performance because he tries to chew as much of Bay’s scenery as he can while straddling the clunky Comedy Drama material he has been given.

Ambulance still. © 2021 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

His lines can occasionally get as bad as the ones Dillahunt and O’Donnell have to deliver, yet as wild as he gets, Gyllenhaal comes off as less annoying. As such, he ends up leaving everyone in the dust by default. Maybe if the tone was evened out- either as a GTA-esque Crime Comedy or a serious Family/Medical Drama with some explosions- then everyone might have had a chance to shine. As it is, the film gives the audience the clunkiest kind of emotional whiplash from tense action to ‘hyuk hyuk Dzaghig is a weird name hyuk’, then back to a heavy moment. It is like triple-booking a kid’s birthday party, a rep theatre production of a Shakespeare play, and a funeral, and having all three happen at once.

That makes Ambulance a typical Bay film. This clunky approach can be seen in even his more fondly-regarded films, like 1996’s The Rock, which also gets mentioned here (“winners go home and fuck the prom queen”). It is a formula that has earned box office numbers across the years, except the material has been wearing thin for a long, long time now. Bay fans will get something average-at-best for his standards. For everyone else, they will get a film that is occasionally effective, often annoying, and as clunky as driving an ambulance at high speed. Thus, for these reasons, Ambulance gets 2 out of 5 stars.

Universal Studios

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Day Heath
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Day Heath is a Capricorn who likes long walks on the beach, picnics on the grass, and reviewing films. They have an occasionally updated blog called Thinkin' Thinkin' at about films, history travelling and anything else on their mind. They're willing to offer their two cents, and might even give you change.

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