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Ambulance review – Michael Bay in excelsis | reviews, news & interviews

Ambulance review – Michael Bay in excelsis

Ambulance review – Michael Bay in excelsis

An emotionally vacant, absurd thrill-ride through the streets of LA

Man and machine: Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) makes his stand(c) Universal Studios

Speed in an ambulance? Gone In 60 Seconds meets Heat?

Reports that Michael Bay’s lockdown-shot LA film would be an intimate, “character-based” drama don’t survive contact with the director’s high-concept, high-velocity MO. If anything, working within pandemic restrictions in the Covid-emptied streets has amped up his OD’ing on tech and technique.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is more earthed as Afghanistan veteran Will Sharp, living in a cramped, Stars and Stripes-draped flat with his cancer-stricken wife and their baby. He’s thus convinced to ask a life-saving financial favour from his bank-robber brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal, pictured below with Abdul-Mateen II – Will is adopted kin), who convinces him to tag along as driver on the $32 million bank job his glibly chatty gang are set to commit that very afternoon.

Bay casts off from reality right there, but Chris Fedak’s script meanwhile sketches further characters - chiefly hard-bitten paramedic with a past Cam (fierce Eiza González, pictured bottom). Lovelorn cop Zach (Jackson White) is meanwhile shot by Will during the disastrous robbery, whose ferocious gun battle nods to Heat and the real North Hollywood Shootout. Danny then hijacks the ambulance with Will at the wheel, Cam and the cop aboard, and most of the LAPD in pursuit.Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal in AmbulanceBay’s blurred 360-degree camera-swirls induce cinematic travel-sickness during this perfunctory character-sketching, drones frenetically buzzing the most ordinary actions, and launching roaring tracking-shots like Kubrick hunting Jack’s boy Danny through the Overlook Hotel. Character shit done and car chase begun, Lorne Balfe’s booming score breaks the sound barrier, helicopters strafe the ground and cop cars careen, as the tank-like title star ploughs on.

Bay’s hyper-style matches increasingly manic substance, Ambulance piling on gags and upping stakes as the Sharps attempt their impossible escape. You might as well surrender to its chutzpah as Zach bleeds out, and Cam operates via video-call with mid-golf-round surgeons, bloodily lifting out his spleen in the rocketing ambulance, shortly before it’s targeted by LAPD snipers. This is Airplane!­-level gear. When desperate Danny calls in a favour from trigger-happy Mexican gangsters, Bay’s “little” film wholly blows up.

Gyllenhaal goes with the flow. As with his Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home, he relishes a sense of sardonic threat, while hollering sometimes tone-deaf, sometimes outrageous lines (Cam: “He needs an ambulance.” Danny: “Yeah, well…I wish I didn’t have herpes”). In a moment of climactic threat, he also finds Ambulance’s sole emotional pulse, Danny’s love for his adoptive brother, yelling with fierce intent, “He’s my real brother!” as these bad boys team up to let the bullets fly.Eiza González in AmbulanceThough stopping short of Bay’s pumped up Pearl Harbour patriotism, we’re still invited to sympathise with the LAPD’s black-garbed, militaristic forces, who value the life of their bleeding brother officer above all others, and itch to execute the Sharps. More even than Harry Lime in The Third Man’s Vienna sewers, you can’t help siding with their quarry, as Danny’s brain and Will’s driving keep their chase going. Bobby Womack’s “California Dreamin’” is a choice soundtrack cut as they splash through the Los Angeles River’s concrete canyons, in Bay’s prosaic mash-note to his hometown.

Fedak rewrote his script on the fly, and lines have a jumbled, doctored feel. Amongst the least convincing creations is baseball cap-wearing, ageing super-cop Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt), who arrives to bark maverick orders in a small car with a big dog. Even before learning this is Michael Bay’s dog, he’s clearly more Bay-manque than police officer. The script joshingly mentions Bay’s best film The Rock, made back in the Nineties nirvana for high-concept action flicks written and cast above their station. Five Transformers films later, there’s not much left of that director. Ambulance does, though, have an old Simpson-Bruckheimer production’s gaudy gusto. But it has more plot-holes than plot, and no one talks or behaves like a human being, or someone in the job in which they’re employed, for one of its 136 minutes. We’re in Bay-world, not our own, and for all its adrenalin, Ambulance leaves no emotional trace.

Helicopters strafe the ground and cop cars careen, as the tank-like title star ploughs on


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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