Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his adoptive brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), who have hijacked an ambulance following a botched bank heist, almost become a mantra. Not only has their huge score left a trail of deaths in its wake, but they’re also traveling around with a captive EMT, Cam Thompson (Eiza González), who is attempting to keep police officer Zack (Jackson White) alive after Will shot him in their escape attempt. To make matters worse, this ambulance is racing through the streets of Los Angeles, pursued by cops and helicopters, and attempting to dodge just about every impediment imaginable. Will and Danny do not stop because they are unable to do so. If they come to a halt, they will be like a shark.
Michael Bay, likewise, doesn’t always seem to know when to put his foot down. While the early years of Bay‘s career were filled with over-the-top action flicks like Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon, his latter work may feel like a never-ending trudge. While we occasionally get flashes of the silly joy that launched Bay‘s career with films like 2013’s Pain & Gain, Bay has primarily been recognized for his excess and weariness throughout the previous two decades of his work.
However, with Ambulance, Bay has tapped into that earlier version of himself, back when he could go big, ludicrous, and sustain a degree of excitement and pleasure throughout an entire picture, his fifteenth and first theatrical release since 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight. Ambulance doesn’t stop from the minute it starts, and for the first time in a long time, Bay makes this trip engrossing from start to finish.
Will Sharp, a veteran in Ambulance, is in need of $231,000 for his wife’s operation. Will talks to his brother Danny about his benefits running out, and Danny persuade him to join with a bank robbery that will net the entire team $32 million. Naturally, the robbery goes wrong, and Will and Danny, as the only remaining members of their squad, assume command of an ambulance, replete with the aforementioned EMT and injured police. Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI Agent Anson Clark (Kein O’Donnell), as well as what appears to be the entire Los Angeles police force, are attempting to stop these two.
As one could expect from Bay, Ambulance is still full of irrational moments that are as absurd as they are laughable. Ambulance, written by Chris Fedak (Chuck, Prodigal Son) and based on the 2005 Danish film of the same name, embraces Michael Bay‘s natural ludicrousness. For example, it doesn’t seem to matter if Will and Danny are certain to kill hundreds of cops on their way to safety, as long as they save the one they’re driving. Ambulance is jam-packed with bizarre shocks, character connections, and an astonishing number of close calls, thanks to Bay and Fedak. But Ambulance is also a picture that Bay and Fedak know will either be embraced or dismissed for what it is, and Ambulance wisely chooses to play to the audience that is eager to go along for the trip.
And what a rollercoaster it’s going to be. Even the simplest shots are recorded in the most grandiose and extravagant ways imaginable by Bay‘s camera. Drone shots fly around with practically no obvious goal other than to add to the craziness, and even the simplest shots are filmed in the most grandiose and extravagant ways possible by Bay‘s camera. However, Bay appears to be motivated by the simpler, more simplistic action with which he began his career. Ambulance even mentions The Rock and Bad Boys explicitly, as though Bay is well aware that these are the sorts of films that people expect from him as a filmmaker. However, with Ambulance, Bay is significantly influenced by Michael Mann’s Heat, with a healthy dose of Jan de Bont’s Speed thrown in for good measure. The result is a film that is unexpected and always captivating, a film that would be insane if it were made by anybody else.
The three central performances in Ambulance, however, elevate the picture, all of whom manage to escape seeming like typical Bay stock characters. Bay establishes the despair of Will’s financial situation, as well as Cam’s sympathy for her patients, which only lasts until she gets them to the hospital, before the action begins. Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal’s Danny is a bit of a toss-up, a criminal who clearly loves his brother but has a dark history that reveals he’ll do everything to stay alive. Both Abdul-Mateen II and González do a good job in sympathetic parts, but Gyllenhaal’s ability to match Bay‘s madness makes him a compelling antihero.
It’s uncommon to come across a picture as joyfully crazy as Ambulance, a balls-to-the-wall, frenzied film that just surrenders to its madness rather than attempting to make sense of it. Bay has steadily upped the size of his action spectacles over the years, losing sight of what made him such an engaging action filmmaker in the first place. Bay has crafted one of his greatest pictures in decades by pulling back and focusing just on the thrills and craziness of this situation.
Ambulance will be premiered on air on April 8.