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Ambulance (2022) Review: Bayhem at its Finest

April 12, 2022

Quick Thoughts – Grade – B+ – The Michael Bay directed Ambulance is an absolute blast. If you’re looking for a fun action thriller that stretches its $40 million budget, go watch this remake on the biggest screen possible. 

I recently rewatched all 14 Michael Bay movies and counted every explosion featured in them for a Rotten Tomatoes data editorial. I had a blast rewatching every film and it reminded me of why Michael Bay has been a household name for over 27 years. His films are hyper-kinetic, loaded with action, and feature so many camera angles you almost feel bad for the camera crew. The Bay rewatch made me appreciate Ambulance more because it reminded me of how he can make a $40 million dollar movie look like a $100 million dollar blockbuster. Also, after the extremely cold and cynical 6 Underground (which I enjoy because it’s so insane) Ambulance brings back a welcome dose of heart that made movies like Armageddon and 13 Hours so good. I legitimately cared for the people in the ambulance, and as the movie came to its conclusion I felt my emotions swelling (Jason Momoa felt the same way too). What’s wild about Ambulance is that it’s one of two Fresh films that Bay has on Rotten Tomatoes. Only The Rock and Ambulance have scores above 60%, and they both have under 10 explosions, which based on my data means critics and audiences are more likely to like them. The only problem is his less-explosion-y movies typically make less money, and after a disappointing opening weekend that saw it only pulling in $8.6 million, I hope word-of-mouth helps save it from being lost in movie oblivion. 

The movie focuses on what happens when a bank robbery goes awry and leads to a 90-minute car chase that involves explosions, high-speed collisions, and a decent amount of body horror. The two bank robbers are brothers Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who grew up under a mythically violent father who was known for his bank robberies and trail of dead bodies he left behind. Prior to the robbery, Will left for the military and came back to no job, a sick wife, and over $100,000 needed for an experimental surgery for his wife that insurance won’t cover. He’s coaxed back into a major bank robbery by the cashmere wearing Danny, who has continued the family trade of stealing money from people. Since it’s a movie, and the robbery can’t go smoothly, the well-planned out heist goes awry when a young police officer named Zach (Jackson White) enters the bank in an attempt to get the phone number of a bank teller he has a crush on. This leads to him being shot and placed inside an ambulance staffed by Scott (Colin Woodell) and Cam Thompson (Eiza González). The ambulance is taken over by Will and Danny, and this leads to a wild chase between the robbers, and a gigantic police force led by Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell). What’s wild is that in addition to all the car crashes, bullets and explosions, we’re also treated to a whole lot of bloody surgery as Cam fights to keep Officer Zach alive inside the fast movie vehicle. 

The performances by González, Abdul-Mateen II and Gyllenhaal (or villain-haal) are top-notch as they turn up their energy (it’s a Michael Bay film. Many people yell) and seem to enjoy being filmed at every conceivable angle. When I heard that Gyllenhaal was going to be in a Michael Bay film it made perfect sense as his occasional manic energy fits well inside the stressful world of Bay. The three make for a solid trio of competent humans who are stuck in a horrible ordeal that will see some of them dead before the closing credits. Their highlights include singing an off-tone rendition of the Christopher Cross song Sailing, and a moment when Cam has to use her hair clip to clamp a major artery during a surgery aided by facetiming doctors who are taking a break from their golf game to help her.  Also, seeing Gyllenhaal lose his mind when his cashmere sweater is blasted by a fire extinguisher is pure gold. 

The technical aspects are also excellent (aside from WAY too many drone shots) as cinematographer Roberto De Angelis (steadicam operator on Avatar, 13 Hours, Baby Driver, 6 Underground) finds ways to make life stuck inside an ambulance seem frantic, and stunt coordinator Mike Gunther does a beautiful job of destroying what feels like hundreds of vehicles in spectacular fashion. All in all, this might be one of the best looking $40 million budgeted films I’ve ever seen because the budget never feels stretched and there is so much action that looks expensive.

Final thoughts – Go watch Ambulance on a giant screen. It’s wonderful.

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