ambulance movie review: A misguided and over-the-top film remake
Michael Bay isn’t hired for delicate adult drama. The blockbuster producer/director of the “Transformers” and “Bad Boys” series does have a unique aesthetic, but it’s characterised by enormous explosions and whirling drone shots. And “Ambulance movie reiew,” Bay’s most recent film, is a thick, meaty, comically overblown, magnificently idiotic steak on which the world’s vulgar auteurists may feast.
With a few important alterations, “ambulance movie reiew” is a remake of the 2005 Danish film “Ambulancen.” Both stories revolve on brothers who resort to bank robbery in order to pay for a relative’s medical expenses. The receiver, however, is changed from a dying mother to a sick wife, intensifying the rivalry between career criminal Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his adoptive brother, struggling veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Even when such values fail to make any logical sense, Bay’s universe is one of good folks with principles and terrible ones without. It’s not about making sense, however. It’s all about enormous, rumbling emotions.
The next robbery in both films goes tragically wrong, prompting the pair to steal an ambulance as a getaway vehicle/camouflage to avoid the police cars, SWAT vehicles, and surveillance trucks encircling the bank. However, in Bay’s version, the poor sap dying in the back of the stolen ambulance is a wounded officer, not an ordinary heart sufferer. (What, you didn’t figure this narrative would have badge worship?) And, although “Ambulancen” is a tight 80 minutes, “Ambulance” is a leisurely 136 minutes.
That’s not to say that viewing “Ambulance” is a comfortable experience. The film begins with an emotionally seductive sequence, roving over medical bills and medicine bottles bathed in the same golden light that bathes Will’s saintly wife Amy (Moses Ingram) as she cradles their newborn child. Amy’s cancer diagnosis has put a strain on the couple’s finances. As a result, Will grudgingly reconnects with his flashy, flamboyant brother in order to borrow money for Amy’s imminent operation. But Danny, who Gyllenhaal portrays as though he eats Red Bull and cocaine for breakfast every day, goes one step further: How about a $8 million payday to pacify the insurance companies instead of a few hundred thousand dollars?
That’s the failed heist discussed earlier, which follows the arrival of the film’s third character, Cam Thompson (Eiza González), and plays out like “Heat” on steroids. Cam, in true action-movie character fashion, is the finest darn EMT the city of Los Angeles has ever seen, capable of “keeping anybody alive for 20 minutes,” as she puts it. She’s also jaded and hardened, telling her new partner that it’s just a job and that she doesn’t care what happens to the young girl she just saved from a terrible vehicle accident where the kid was impaled on wrought-iron fence.
Will Cam’s hostage situation—the she’s EMT in Danny and Will’s stolen ambulance, in case you didn’t notice—reignite her desire to save lives? Who am I to say? What can be said is that once the ambulance embarks on a “Speed”-style chase through the streets of a strangely traffic-free Los Angeles, the stakes rise until Cam is wrist-deep in the cop’s open chest cavity, performing a life-saving procedure with the assistance of two trauma surgeons who FaceTime in from the golf course. Squishy geysers of blood are gushing from the cop’s wound. Danny is at the helm, mowing down traffic cones and driving over highway overpasses the wrong way at 60 mph. Like in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Will is tied to the corpse on the stretcher, acting as a human blood bag. On the other end of the line is an FBI hostage negotiator, who is demanding to know what the heck is going on. Everybody is yelling. Cam’s laptop then shuts off. She has to do the procedure on her own—and the cop’s spleen has just exploded.
In a nutshell, “Ambulance” is a dizzying roller coaster trip made even more disorienting by Bay’s hyper-kinetic filming technique. The camera pivots around the protagonists in dramatic low-angle views during early discussion passages. Once the action starts, the combination of frantic editing and volatile drone photography—one of Bay and cinematographer Roberto De Angelis’ favourites is to zip up the side of a DTLA skyscraper, then plunge back down with nauseating speed—makes it difficult to tell who’s chasing whom and in which direction. The blazing police vehicles flying in all directions, even right at the camera, add to the readability problem.
Roller coasters, on the other hand, are a great deal of fun. “Ambulance” is a blast—a dizzying, unnecessarily lengthy blast, but a blast nonetheless—if you yield to the pandemonium and let your brain cells to scatter like so much fruit sent zipping through the air when the eponymous vehicle smashes into a LA street market. Bay seems to be having a good time, as he stuffs the picture with as much comedic relief as he does everything else, puts his own dog in a ludicrous cameo role, and enables screenwriter Chris Fedak‘s repeated allusions to past Bay films to make it onto the screen intact. The sheer amount of blazing wreckage on screen makes the film seem to have spent more than its $40 million budget. And, in Bay’s opinion, it shows he kept his half of the agreement.