Ambulance Synopsis: Needing money to cover his wife’s medical bills, a decorated veteran (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) teams up with his adoptive brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) to steal $32 million from a Los Angeles bank. However, when their getaway goes wrong, the desperate thieves hijack an ambulance that’s carrying a severely wounded cop and an EMT worker (Eiza González). Caught in a high-speed chase, the two siblings must figure out a way to outrun the law while keeping their hostages alive. Based on a 2005 international film.
Two estranged brothers on opposite sides of the law unite for one last heist. When their bank robbery goes upside down, the duo find themselves on the run inside an EMT’s ambulance in Michael Bay’s latest electric actioner Ambulance. It’s no surprise that Bay continues to rank as one of the industry’s most divisive figures – often bludgeoning audiences through his form of kinetic framing choices and juvenile quirks.
When the auteur is outside the confines of the soulless Transformers franchise, Bay’s visceral presentation style extracts unique energy and perspective out of familiar formula. Pain and Gain showcased Bay spinning a darkly-comedic foray into the perverted chase of the American Dream, while action staples The Rock and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi incorporate his bold techniques with technical aplomb.
As a breathless heist yarn, Ambulance perfectly suits Bay’s chaotic energy. It’s the type of experience only the volatile auteur could dream up, a full-throttle and explosive thrill ride that harkens back to blockbuster crime epics of yesteryear.
I think some critics of Bay see his bombastic mayhem and assume it’s a byproduct of overindulgence. With Ambulance, the auteur exemplifies the proper precision and visceral artistry needed to manifest chaos in a controlled sense onscreen. With an arsenal of first-responder vehicles and buckets of bullets by his side, Bay conjures an unhinged journey fitting to his relentless premise.
His usual cinematic staples, like freewheeling camerawork, bold lighting, and sweaty intimate framing choices, intensify each plot revelation with technical artistry. The addition of newly-minted drone cameras also radiates kid-in-the-candy-store energy for Bay, who uses the new tech to fly through each car chase and towering skyscrapers with newfound vitality.
On a narrative front, Ambulance presents more intrigue than most Bay endeavors. The craftsman’s eye for visceral storytelling works wonders in conveying the fraught yet loving relationship between brothers Will and Danny. Without much traditional exposition to work with, the film’s expressive flashbacks and deft editing choices draw a surprising amount of resonance out of its straightforward plotting.
Screenwriter Chris Fedak also deserves recognition for infusing a slew of modern ruminations into the proceedings. Our main characters effectively wrestle with morality, the myth of the American Dream, and society’s growing economic disparity as they endure a series of backbreaking setbacks. I also appreciate the loud and explosive handling of each character beat, with the constant shouting and bickering reflecting the same energy as the noisy action setpieces.
The minimalist plotting approach creates a potent canvas for the project’s A-list cast. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is a verging movie star for a reason. As Will, Mateen II’s effortless bravado and dramatic gravitas elevate his straight-laced role as a veteran stuck in an unraveling situation. Acting as a cipher for Bay’s high-energy shtick, Jake Gyllenhaal chews the scenery like no other as our gleefully over-the-top antagonist Danny. Eliza Gonzalez also adds some much-needed agency and naturalism as the EMT deals with the hostage situation.
Make no mistake; Ambulance still features some common Bay mishaps. The auteur continues to utilize groan-inducing comedic gags at the worst possible moment, while the 136-minute runtime could use another pass in the editing bay. That said, it’s a blast to see Bay work within material that perfectly complements his skill set. Ambulance is a gloriously frenetic experience that deserves the big-screen treatment.