IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 136 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera
War veteran Will Sharp, desperately in need of $231,000 for his wife Amy’s surgery, reaches out to Danny, his adoptive brother and a life-long criminal, who talks him into taking part in a $32 million bank heist, but things go wrong, with Will panicking and shooting Zach, a policeman they were holding hostage, and everyone else being killed in a battle with the police. Will and Danny hijack an ambulance where nurse Can Thompson is treating Zach, something which is very hard to do when the vehicle is being driven at top speed and in a dangerous manner to shake off an ever-increasing posse of police. But maybe Papi, a crime lord Danny’s father was pally with, can help out….
Ambulance is a remake of a 1995 Danish film that director Michael Bay has said he’s never seen. I’m sure some of Bay’s many naysayers would laugh at the idea of him even considering to view a movie that has subtitles, but then anyone who thinks he’s one of the worst filmmakers around clearly hasn’t seen many films, and his hectic style is a perfect fit for this hectic chase movie which also makes some effort at characterisation and emotionally involving the viewer, even if it’s quite basic and in very broad strokes. The set up is well handled, with us immediately caring for Will, who’s in a bit of a plight financially and turns to crime to pay for a major operation for his wife, and Can, the nurse who has a reputation as the best reviver around but is emotionally cold through years of being in this job, not even seeming to care about a little girl who’s seriously injured. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eliza González both make a strong impact early as their characters, though many scenes are stolen by a very over the top and sometimes improvising Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny, who veers from being a little sympathetic to being not sympathetic at all. The screenplay by Chris Fedak surprises a bit introducing characters than killing many of them off very quickly, mostly in a street gun battle which plays like the one in Heat on steroids. Then it’s chase time through Los Angeles for almost the rest of the film including a bit in the river near those famous storm drains, and the endless pursuing by the police cars and helicopters pursuit of the ambulance does become a bit repetitious, but oldies like me can only cheer at the sight of lots of real stunts rather than CGI, and, by the time two characters have to perform very difficult [and bloody] surgery on another in the speeding ambulance despite one not being qualified and the other not having a clue, one just has to admire the film’s gall.
Bay always has a mobile camera, but the use of first person drone photography takes this to outrageous extremes here, with it seeming like we’re hanging off the edge of highways and hurdling up and down the sides of skyscrapers for no reason at all except that it looks cool. One does wish that he’d slow things down for just a little in places so we can enjoy a shot that lasts more than two seconds and catch our breath, but Bay does this kind of thing better than many others except for when he employs ‘shakycam’ here and there; cuts going back and forth from normal camerawork to jittery crap which just obscures what we’re trying to see don’t match well. Of course, being Bay, he seems to enjoy filming shots of people running around with and aiming guns more than anything else. The script actually seems to acknowledge that the plot is propelled forward because virtually everyone makes a bad decision or too, while the humour, often nowhere near the best thing in a Bay film, mostly works, be it the sight of a huge dog in a tiny car or somebody involved in a discussion where somebody else says “do people really rob banks any more” before receiving a text to to and deal with a bank robbery. And by the time of the final scene, which Bay allows to mostly plays out as a montage of shots of several characters, we have to admit that despite all the visual fireworks we’re involved and we do care – well, unless you’re a hater in which case Ambulance certainly won’t change your mind.