Thursday, April 07, 2022

Michael Bay’s Ambulance

This would be a good day in Los Angeles to do your banking online, for the usual reasons of traffic and street crime. Nevertheless, a rookie cop happens to want to ask out a pretty teller. Instead of a rom-com, he walks into a heist movie. After he is shot by a reluctant bank-robber, Officer Zach’s ride to the hospital is hijacked by two desperate armed robbers (very well armed) in Michael Bay’s Ambulance, which opens nationwide tomorrow.

Afghanistan veteran Will Sharp’s wife needs an experimental cancer treatment, so naturally insurance will not cover it. Swallowing his pride, he visits his estranged adopted brother Danny for a loan. Instead, he offers his brother a gig on a bank heist due to go down in minutes. Danny took over their father’s criminal business, but at least he is not the violent psycho killer the old man was. Unfortunately, this job is going to get unusually messy.

It turns out Captain Monroe was waiting outside the bank with his flying squad, or whatever he calls them. With the other three losers incapacitated, the Sharp brothers commandeer the ambulance dispatched for Officer Zach to sneak out of the trap. It not a clean getaway though. Like it or not, they have EMT Cam Thompson and the critically wounded Zach as hostages. While they evade Monroe’s dragnet, they desperately need Thompson to keep the officer alive, to prevent them ever facing murder charges.

is a perfect example of why Michael Bay is probably the only genuine auteur, with an immediately recognizable visual style, currently working within the Hollywood system. Even if you knew nothing about Ambulance, you could probably guess it is a Michael Bay film within the first five minutes. In this case, that’s actually a compliment.

There are still plenty of crazy explosions and car crashes in
Ambulance, but it is a much more grounded film than Bay’s Transformer spectacles. There is legit character development and drama here. Jake Gyllenhaal is impressively off-the-wall, pushing the envelop of deranged, as Brother Danny. Yahya Abdul-Mateen has the less flashy role, but he is suitably intense as the driven and guilt-wracked Brother Will. Eiza Gonzalez holds her own against both of them as Thompson, who has a surprisingly potent character development arc of her own.

However, the real star that will come out of
Ambulance is Bay’s mastiff Nitro, who plays Monroe’s loyal dog, whom he somehow fits in the back of his Fiat. The big guy just has massive screen presence. For the record, his co-star, Garret Dillahunt is terrific too as the sly, sarcastic police captain.

is actually a remake of a Danish film. Presumably, the original film used the confined ambulance setting to create a claustrophobic effect, whereas Bay uses it to create vehicular mayhem. That is a shrewd bit of adaptation-pivoting from screenwriter Chris Fedak, allowing Bay to do his thing, which leads to a lot of white-knuckle chases and narrow escapes.

In reality, none of this would have been really necessary, since LA’s current DA would probably only prosecute the Sharp Brothers on misdemeanor trespass charges. Yet, Bay’s energy sweeps viewers up, suspending our disbelief. Recommended as a big, loud Michael Bay-style action film,
Ambulance opens tomorrow (4/8) nationwide, including the AMC Empire in New York.