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ambulance review
An ambulance becomes the getaway vehicle for a pair of bank robbers.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael Bay

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Garret Dillahunt, Jackson White, Keir O'Donnell

ambulance poster

Having seen Ambulance, I'm now thoroughly convinced that the pandemic was engineered by Michael Bay so he could shut down Los Angeles and flip every replica cop car Hollywood has to offer. There isn't a hole in the City of Angels he doesn't fly his little drone through. Where other filmmakers have to try and convince us that Atlanta and Vancouver are the Californian metropolis, Bay has been given the keys to Los Angeles. While this lends his film an authenticity and a definite sense of place, the LA setting serves to remind us of several past action movies, which certainly doesn't do Bay any favours.

Based on a 2005 Danish thriller, Ambulance sees military veteran Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) look up his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) when he needs $231,000 to pay for his wife's experimental surgery. Will and Danny have been estranged for several years due to the latter's following in their late father's criminal footsteps. Rather than loan him the money, Danny convinces his brother to join the crew he's assembled for a bank heist in downtown LA. Desperate for the cash, Will agrees.

ambulance review

Following what resembles the famous shootout from Michael Maan's Heat, if it were directed by a 10-year-old who just crushed seven cans of Monster, Will and Danny hijack an ambulance, and along with the vehicle, take cynical paramedic Cam (Eiza González) and gunshot wounded rookie cop Zack (Jackson White) hostage as they seek a way out of the city.


As an advert for the LAPD, Ambulance doesn't exactly portray LA's finest in a great light. How hard can it be to stop an ambulance? Don’t they have spikes in California? Are PIT maneuvers forbidden in the Golden State? It takes a major degree of suspension of disbelief to buy into our anti-heroes managing to evade the cops for the movie's excessive 2.5 hour running time. Will and Danny never do anything particularly clever yet they always seem to be two steps ahead of the cops. This destroys any potential for tension or suspense that may have been mined from the scenario.

ambulance review

But Bay doesn't allow the viewer time to ask such awkward questions. He pummels us with his exhausting visual style, made all the more incomprehensible now that he's discovered drone photography. There are moments in the film where Bay seems so distracted by his drone that he flies it off in a manner that has absolutely nothing to do with covering the film's action. Some of the shot choices are truly baffling, even by Bay's standards. His drone goes up tiddly up up. Then goes down tiddly down down. Up, down, flying around, looping the loop and defying the ground. It looks like he and everyone else working on the movie had the time of their lives. It's a shame so little of this enthusiasm translates to the audience.


Along with his drones and explosives, Bay has gathered a quality cast here, and Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II work overtime to try and make something of their one-dimensional characters. It's Gonzalez who quietly anchors the film as a paramedic just trying to do her job in the most difficult of circumstances, in what is a surprisingly touching tribute to frontline workers.

ambulance review

Ambulance is a mess. You can't hear half the dialogue. The tone flips from broad comedy to dark violence in the space of a single scene. Its action sequences pale in comparison to similar ones pulled off with aplomb by the likes of James Cameron and Michael Mann. And yet – and I can't believe I'm saying this about a Michael Bay movie – I was never bored.

Perhaps it's a sign of how unspectacular Hollywood action movies have become in this age of green screen over-reliance that even when one of the world's most incompetent filmmakers gets to actually blow shit up in the streets of a real city, it feels revolutionary. Say what you will about Ambulance, the money's all up on the screen, even if you have to squint to see it.

Ambulance
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.



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