Review: 'Ambulance' (2022) Dir. Michael Bay
Michael Bay brings his unique style of action, drama and Hollywood excess to this remake of the 2005 Danish thriller that champions big action, big explosions and big practical stunts...
Former US war veteran Will Sharp (Abdul-Mateen II) returns to Los Angeles and faces immediate hardship trying to provide for his wife Amy (Ingram) and young child. He seeks out his adoptive brother Danny (Gyllenhaal) for financial help.
Danny agrees to help Will, but in return Danny needs help for a job. Running a criminal underground network, Danny has a bank robbery of $32m in his sights, and it's his last job before turning away. The two come together for a simple job, carried out in broad daylight.
But when the heist goes wrong, Danny and Will are forced to commandeer a passing ambulance used by EMT Cam Thompson (González). The brothers are hunted by swarming police as they escape through LA with their bond pushed to breaking point in order to survive...
Michael Bay directs and produces this remake of the Danish thriller Ambulancen by Laurits Munch-Petersen and Lars Andreas Pedersen. It's a very simple concept - thieves hijack an ambulance to escape from a botched robbery, only to find a patient and driver inside and the police thundering down on them. In that respect, the story is not very hard to follow and at times not very thrilling. What keeps it going over the cops and robbers chase is the action that very rarely stops, and underlying tension within the ambulance itself (trying to perform life saving surgery on a wounded cop in a speeding vehicle isn't as easy as it sounds!). This is all glued by the crackling three leads who all bounce off each other perfectly.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play brothers Danny and Will, bonded by family but not by blood. Abdul-Mateen's Will is a war veteran returning from service and struggling to help provide for his wife and child. Gyllenhaal's Danny is running a criminal underground that stemmed from their father. Very different aspirations and views on life, but brought together by one fateful request for help. Will needs Danny's help for a $250k loan, and Danny needs Will's help to pull one final robbery and net $32m. Over a barrel, Will unwittingly agrees to help, and the plan seems well thought out and well planned. But being a Michael Bay joint, things don't go as expected.
Gyllenhaal cranks his crazy up a notch here, with Danny being a man on the edge who faced overwhelming odds in his quest to fulfil the family name, yet never gives up. He's a man with plenty of answers, but not all of them right. He's great to watch, giving that unpredictability to proceedings. Opposite the more conscious, family orientated Abdul-Mateen who is forced into a life he never really wanted to be part of, it's two sides of a coin and it's clear that only one side will be able to land winning side up at the end. And we have Eiza González as EMT Cam Thompson, taking it in her stride to save lives and do the best she can, even when looking down the barrel of an automatic machine gun. She's got enough fire to repel the pressure faced, and adds a nice dynamic sitting between the two brothers.
There's a good half-hour of setup, and then a full on 90mins of shoot-outs, high octane chases and medical procedures all set in and around a Los Angeles ambulance. See. AmbuLAnce is not just a convenient title!
What works more in favour of just being an action film is the Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen as leads you have time to understand and invest in before seeing them thrown into the gauntlet and so you clearly know the line between good and bad is always a little blurry.
Now there's Bayhem and then there's Bayhem. This is the latter. A more toned down injection of Bayhem that attempts to ground the action more than normal, but doesn't cut back on the thrills and danger from practical stunts and choreography, something that should be applauded. The stunt teams here are on full throttle be it staging a bank robbery that has echoes of The Dark Knight and Heist within, or performing high speed driving through LA itself both on the road and in the air. Cars and trucks ram each other into bigger cars and trucks, or into steel bollards or cement bridges, leading to flying debris, explosions, slow motion shots and all that stuff needed for the genre. And there's bare minimal CGI in sight.
With such a simple premise, the story itself doesn't have much room for expansion. There are many cuts to and from police, criminals and hospital staff all trying to both help and hinder the fleeing crooks and hostages. There's a lot of back and forward, a lot of the same thing that does start to lose it's sheen into the second hour. Yet Bay manages to make the watch worth your while with a few stand out set pieces and a finale you just need to see in terms of how the chaos ends, again falling to the leads to make it more thrilling than just a simple crash and bang job. Los Angeles itself plays a vital role in this story, being a strong support itself even as a city. Bay ensures that the city never stops. Pedestrians, cops, criminals, worker. Cars, trains, helicopters, trucks - the city is a alive and always a natural hazard to navigate.
Technically, Cinematographer Roberto De Angelis is having so much fun with his use of drones and sweeping cameras to thrust audiences into the fast-paced world of law enforcement. It's a classic narrative of cops and robbers, something we've not had for a while in a film as full on as this, and De Angelis really makes the ordinary more thrilling. Squad cards racing into roadblocks, helicopters swooping between skyscrapers, high power machine guns ripping apart cars and buildings, and a lumbering ambulance weaving through busy streets. With action vet Lorne Balfe on score duty, it all combines to make a fast, slick and thrilling stuff that cements the skill of those behind the camera.
'Ambulance' feels like old-school 90s action with a 2020s polish. Michael Bay brings a solid trio together to lead his story that champions practical stunts and thrills, even if it meanders a little through the second act before eventually running out of steam.
'Ambulance' is a co-production between New Republic Pictures, Project X Entertainment and Bay Films