Action Ambulance

Review: ‘Ambulance’ is a Slick, High-Octane Thriller that Gets Insane Mileage Out of Its Simple Premise

April 7, 2022Ben MK

When you think of Michael Bay, the word "subtle" rarely comes to mind. Known for such adrenaline-fuelled blockbusters as Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon, Bay's dizzying camerawork and proven flare for the bombastic has earned him the informal title of the Master of "Bayhem," a term that both encompasses some of the finest action films of all time and also some of the most ridiculously over-the-top examples of Hollywood excess. Now, after spending the better part of the last decade-and-a-half working within the Transformers cinematic universe, the 6 Underground director is back on the big screen with Ambulance, a high-octane crime drama based on the 2005 Danish movie of the same name. The question facing moviegoers, however, isn't whether Bay's latest will keep their pulses racing, but rather which of the above two categories this high-concept thriller falls into.

Danny and Will Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) are brothers who have been influenced in very different ways by their father's criminal career. A serial bank robber wanted by the FBI, Danny has wholeheartedly chosen to follow in their dad's footsteps, masking his penchant for armed heists under the guise of a seemingly legitimate business protecting the assets of wealthy clients. Will, on the other hand, has opted for more heroic path, starting a family and enlisting in the US military to serve his country in the world's most dangerous battle zones. Now that Will is back home in Los Angeles, though, he's discovering that life as a war veteran can be much more challenging than he ever imagined. So when he finds himself in desperate need for cash to pay for his wife's experimental surgery, Will turns to Danny as a last resort, reluctantly agreeing to help his brother pull off one of the biggest bank robberies in California history, in exchange for his share of the $32 million payout.

Unfortunately for Will and Danny, the job goes terribly wrong after an LAPD officer named Zach (Jackson White) gets himself shot during their scheme, forcing the pair to hijack an ambulance with the rookie cop in it and take an EMT named Cam (Eiza González) as their hostage. Suddenly, what was supposed to be a straightforward getaway becomes a high-speed police chase through the sweltering streets of L.A., as the foursome find themselves pursued by an army of police cars led by a hard-nosed Special Investigation Section captain named Monroe (Garret Dillahunt), who won't rest until both Will and Danny are either dead or in handcuffs. Little does Monroe realize, however, that Danny has one more trick up his cashmere sleeves. But when the favor he calls in from ruthless gang leader Papi (A Martinez) backfires, it sends the situation spiralling even further out of control, as the brothers must each decide where their allegiances truly lie, and just how far they're each willing to go.

The result doesn't waste much time plunging viewers right into the thick of the action, for it's not long after the film's melodramatic introduction that the rollercoaster ride begins — first with a tense heist scene that proves to be one of the most captivating in recent memory, then with the aforementioned chase sequence, which essentially lasts for the rest of the movie. Suffice to say, it's nothing short of amazing just how much mileage Bay manages to get out of Ambulance's basic premise, thanks to the multitude of insane obstacles screenwriter Chris Fedak's script throws in Will and Danny's way. Still, in the end it all comes down to Gyllenhaal, Mateen and González, whose performances help keep the whole endeavor somewhat grounded and relatable, not to mention bring some much needed levity amid the non-stop barrage of gunfire, vehicle collisions and explosions.

Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a film that's more action-packed, more head-spinning and more self-aware than this one. In fact, Bay even goes so far as to throw in a couple of direct references to some of his earlier features, moments that will no doubt induce agreeable chuckles from audiences. As for whether the movie is an example of the genre's most impressive or whether it swerves head-on into the path of self-parody, it all depends on how much viewers are willing to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride. After all, Bay could have easily put Ambulance into cruise control. Instead, he's put the pedal to the metal and floored it.

Ambulance releases April 8th, 2022 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for intense violence, bloody images and language throughout. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 16 min.

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