Michael Bay seems to be one of those guys who looks like he gets a helluva joy out directing the movies he makes. When he burst on the scene in the mid-1990s, he looked like he should be the action hero of his own movies. He was like a young hotshot with that hair, those fashion shirts and that smile that you know drove many women wild.
Bad Boys and The Rock seem to be the one-two punch to his movie career that many directors would love. Both movies had a flare to them that told the audiences buckle up for two fucking awesome hours of your life. He was also working with the production team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. It was the perfect marriage of filmmakers in Hollywood.
But all good things can’t last forever. Simpson died of a drug-related heart failure in 1996 and after Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys II, Bay needed to stretch his wings some. And he found a bigger producer, Steven Spielberg, to build a nest with and they made the Transformers movie franchise. I stay away from 13 Hours for many reasons and I tried 6 Underground but couldn’t get into it.
Now, he has made Ambulance, made on a surprisingly small budget for $40 million. Hey, it’s small for Bay and it’s actually pretty good. I mean, you get what you sign up for. This is an action movie set over the course of an afternoon in L.A.
The plot revolves around two brothers, Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his brother, Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) as they get involved in a bank robbery gone wrong. When has a bank robbery in a movie like this ever gone right? Will is a war veteran who needs about $231,000 for his wife, Amy’s operation. Amy (Moses Ingram) has cancer and they have a newborn child. And Will doesn’t have a job and can’t get through to the VA to talk to someone.
So, Danny recruits him to rob a huge bank in downtown L.A. with some other crew members. Everything is going fine until a young LAPD officer, Zach (Jackson White) shows up to hit on a young teller. Danny pretends to be a bank manager and lets him in but Zach soon realizes what’s going on and is taken hostage. Even worse, a squad of SIS (Special Investigation Section) cops have been previously made aware of the heist and waiting outside.
So, a shoot-out happens as more units arrive at the bank and all but Will and Danny are shot or subdued by police. Will and Danny take Zach with them to go to the garage but Zach is shot when he tries to escape, so they leave him. But with a perimeter around the bank, Zach’s partner Mark (Cedric Sanders) calls in for help.
Nearby, an ambulance with EMTs Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez) and her partner, Scott (Colin Woodell) respond to take Zach to the hospital. But Will and Danny are able to hijack the ambulance, kick Scott out and drive off with Cam and Zach in the back. SIS Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) takes control of the situation as they track the ambulance through the air and along the highways and even through the Los Angeles River with many patrol vehicles.
It’s a chase movie mostly with Will eventually helping Cam save the life of Zach. Cam, herself, has her own backstory as she has become somewhat disillusioned with the idea of being an EMT and sees it just as a job. So, she will need this moment to regain why she started out in healthcare first. She does get a chance to escape but realizes she can’t leave Zach alone to die.
There’s a lot of car chases and crashes and gunfire and explosions. You know, it’s the typical Bay movie material. Gyllenhaal has fun playing the hotheaded one as opposed to Abdul-Mateen as the more rational one who can’t believe he’s in this situation but he’s going to get through it. Gonzalez proves to be a smarter female character than you’d expect in a Bay movie with a backstory to explain her attitude.
You can see comparisions to the movie Heat and Bay can’t help but add meta-reference to his two earliest works I also mentioned. While it does seem to move a little longer than it should and give us an ending that doesn’t exactly seem realistic, it still works. This is a Michael Bay movie, remember. If you’re looking for something more meaningful, you won’t find it here. There’s just enough action scenes with the right cinematography to keep you excited with fleshed out characters.
What do you think? Please comment.