REVIEW: ‘Ambulance’ Has A Solid Hook, But Quickly Runs Out of Gas

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ambulance

Ambulance is directed and produced by Michael Bay and written by Chris Fedak. It’s based on the Danish film Ambulancen by Laurits Munch-Petersen and Lars Andreas Pedersen. Former Marine Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), struggling to pay for an experimental surgery for his wife Amy (Moses Ingram), turns to his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) for help. However, Danny has followed in their father’s footsteps and become a career criminal — and decides to rope Will into his latest heist with the promise of a $32 million payday. However, things go horribly wrong when a police officer (Jackson White) is shot, forcing Will and Danny to hijack an ambulance with paramedic Cam (Eiza Gonzalez) aboard. A massive chase ensues as Cam attempts to save the officer’s life, Will keeps the ambulance going while trying to calm down an unstable Danny, and the FBI and LAPD close on their tail.

Bay’s filmography has been…divisive, to say the least. He rose up in the ’90s with a string of action-packed hits, including The Rock and Armageddon, and is most known for his work on the Bad Boys films and the Transformers franchise; both series have received new blood in the form of Bad Boys for Life and Bumblebee respectively. Ambulance should mark a return to Bay’s roots, but the director indulges, resulting in a less-than-stellar viewing experience.

For starters, there’s the runtime. At a punishing 2 hours and 16 minutes, the film takes what should be a nice and straightforward car chase and keeps prolonging it via the most complicated of methods. First, there’s outrunning a barrage of cop cars. Then there’s the matter of performing surgery on the dying gunshot victim in the back. Then there are the police snipers who try to take them out. Factor in a gang of gunrunners, and what could have easily been a 90-100 minute film feels like its director and screenwriter are trying to cram in every idea they had, and only one or two of them worked.

And that’s saying nothing of the editing. Random shots of Will and Danny’s childhood are inserted into a climactic scene near the film’s ending, and while I get what Bay was going for, the result saps the moment of its intended impact. There are also way too many drone shots to count, swooping through the city and turning the screen upside down in a way that’s bound to invoke queasiness in even the strongest of subjects. In traditional Bay fashion, there are car crashes and explosions galore, which is where his excess works; you want a car chase to be fraught with tension and (possible) destruction, and for a time, it’s enough to keep the film going.

The major saving grace of Ambulance is the performances from Mateen and Gonzalez. Will is a man in over his head, and he knows it; nearly every one of his scenes has a resigned look settling over his face, with a few exceptions for horror as he realizes that he may have made his situation worse. And Gonzalez’s Cam isn’t just a hostage. She manages to stay one step ahead of her captors and, true to her profession, is insanely calm under pressure. Gyllenhaal is surprisingly one-note, slowly escalating Danny’s mania to the point where it’s almost comedic; not a good look for an action thriller. The rest of the cast, including Ingram as Amy and Garret Dillahunt as the police captain in charge of the manhunt, are mainly just there to spout exposition and attempt levity. A key example is Dillahunt’s character bringing his dog along for the search—  said dog is named Nitro, in case you forgot who was directing this film.

Ambulance will test both its audience’s endurance and patience, as its frantic pace and editing stretch a solid premise to its breaking point. Action junkies may love it, but rest assured that there is far better fare currently in theaters and on the docket for later this year.

Ambulance premieres in theaters nationwide on April 8, 2022.


Ambulance
  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10
5/10

TL;DR

Ambulance will test both its audience’s endurance and patience, as its frantic pace and editing stretch a solid premise to its breaking point. Action junkies may love it, but rest assured that there is far better fare currently in theaters and on the docket for later this year.