“Ambulance,” the new Michael Bay film (that should be a clue right there as to whether or not you want to waste your money on this one) stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Danny Sharp) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Will Sharp) as two estranged brothers, reunited to complete a bank heist. It’s a dizzying (think carsick) foray filled with never-ending car chase scenes, incompetent police officers, medical inaccuracies that even a child would notice, and, of course, Bay’s signature style of constant explosions. By the end, with your head between your knees to hold back the natural reaction, it’s a race to the exit as you try to recapture your lost 2 hours and 11 minutes … to no avail.
“Ambulance” starts off strong with two paramedics, fledgling Scott (Colin Woodell) and seasoned and hardened Cam (Eiza Gonzalez), saving a young girl in a car accident. This scene, using quick edits and unique camera angles, takes you into the action. It’s a critical situation and we feel the importance of every moment as the jaws of life come out to pull the innocent and brave victim from the clutches of death, then raced to the hospital in the hopes that she will live. We learn early on that Cam is the best in her profession but she’s got more armor than a medieval knight during a joust, protecting her from any and all emotion. These facts, of course, will come into play as she is taken hostage after Will and Danny, the only two survivors after their bank heist goes sour, and she attempts to save a shot police officer in critical condition on the gurney.
We also get a glimpse into Will’s life which targets a common theme in films right now; how our discharged military men are discarded with no support as he and his wife fight for basic healthcare to save her life. It’s a touching part of the film, that is drown out by all the ineptness of each and every situation to follow.
As strong as the film starts, it quickly plummets into the abyss of nothingness creating a repetitive action film showcasing how Bay can put on an explosion show with car chases and accidents all with a nauseating hand-held camera. If only there was one iota of common sense woven into the film. If only the studio could have hired a real police officer and doctor to offer some suggestions…I’m sure the budget was too tight after spending money on explosive devices.
This is Gyllenhaal’s second recent foreign flick remake. The first most recently was “Guilty” and while the American version of this film was good, it couldn’t touch the Danish version. My guess is that “Ambulancen,” also a Danish film, was heads and shoulders above Bay’s remake of it as well.
Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II (“The Trial of the Chicago 7” “Candyman”) somehow find a way to create intense characters amidst the chaos and mess of a threadbare story. However, thanks to the writing, Danny’s background feels disingenuous, but the cool anger Gyllenhaal gives him is real. Abdul-Mateen’s sensitivity, natural pauses, and gaze connects us to this man barely holding it together. Unfortunately, Bay discards Abdul-Mateen’s skill as he’s lost in his own world that has nothing to do with storytelling. Gonzalez, throughout this rough ride remains beautiful and determined as the heroine who won’t leave her patient behind, although she does try a couple of times.
Bay has taken a bank heist story with relevant underlying issues about healthcare and our government’s treatment of our service men and blows it out of the water as we all drown in a sea of ridiculousness. What could have been a thrilling and entertaining story became just another, well, Michael Bay film.