Because this movie will knock you off your feet.
Written By Hayden Claborn, Entertainment Writer
Michael Bay’s Ambulance is the cinematic equivalent of riding a roller coaster that spins out of control and flies off the track into a heap of acid. It’s like Bay watched the works of Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter The Void), who is known for invasive, mind melting cinematography, and decided that Noé didn’t go far enough. Several shots come across as out of body experiences as the camera flies through crashing cars and up buildings accompanied by editing that is almost experimental.
The central concept of Ambulance is rather simple yet allows for ingenuity. Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) are adopted brothers who attempt to rob a bank in Los Angeles. Predictably, things go from bad to worse conveyed in a thrilling shootout that feels like it lasts twenty minutes. The two of them end up in an ambulance with an EMT named Cam (Eiza González) and a wounded police officer who was shot by Will. The only way out is to hijack the ambulance and go on the run.
The film shines its brightest when Michael Bay puts restrictions on himself. The story is stuck inside the ambulance and it’s fun to see Bay come up with ways to keep the characters in the same place.The LAPD become a force of nature the criminals can’t escape–and the solution is a seemingly never-ending car chase. Bay is able to create a chaotic canvas where the vehicle is the focal point. Sure, the sequences increase in improbability as time goes on, but the film understands that’s what makes it thrilling. The best moments are when you have to ask yourself “how are they going to get out of this?”
The most insane sequence occurs somewhere in the middle (it’s pretty hard to tell where you are in the narrative when watching). Cam has to conduct a surgery on the wounded officer that balances total absurdity and highwire suspense. The concluding gag of the scene is pure genius and made me laugh out loud.
Ambulance, strangely, is also a film about privilege. When Will shoots the police officer, Danny remarks “you know how this looks,” insinuating a black man wounding a white police officer looks bad. Arguably, Will leads a more honable life than Danny yet is in a worse spot. Despite being a war hero and a skilled driver, Will isn’t the one with all the money and resources. This motif pops up enough that it teases itself as a theme but all the noise prevents it from coming to the surface. The performers make the characters compelling. Jake Gyllenhaal looks like a Warner Bros cartoon when his eyes bug out in several madness-driven sequences. Eiza González and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II develop an engrossing kidnapped/hostage dynamic that renders them sympathetic to the audience.
The first hour and a half of Ambulance is tight and brilliant, but after a while its narrative becomes overstuffed with a plethora of cops, criminals, and FBI agents. While it all leads to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, the film felt far longer than it actually was. By the one hour mark, Bay is still introducing new elements and characters that create a great amount of clutter, ultimately losing sight of any subtext that might have been present.
The dazzling action sequences and quality performances are what save Ambulance at the end of the day. Bay has tempered his worse tendencies and he’s able to show his technical prowess as a filmmaker.