Ambulance sees the return of the true summer popcorn movie with an easy-to-follow story, outrageous chase scenes and explosions, and even a little bit of melodrama.
Michael Bay returns to Bad Boys (1995) form with a Speed (1994) inspired storyline, incredibly talented performances and his trademark use of lens flares and over the top camera movements.
While Ambulance won’t win any awards, it is delightful if you can turn off critic mode and go along with the ride. Yes, there are some continuity errors, a moment where you can clearly see a crew member in the background of a shot, and the ending errs on the side of the over-the-top, but what are you expecting? This isn’t Gone With The Wind (1939)!
The simple opening of the film following an ex-soldier (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) desperate for cash to pay for his wife’s medical bills allows the audience uncomplicated stakes that give weight to the events that follow. He goes to his brother (Jake Gyllenhaal), a heist specialist, for a loan. He’s then unexpectedly thrust into a bank job where they end up in an ambulance with a paramedic (Eiza González) trying to keep a cop they shot alive before their pursuers close in. Each escalation from there feels organic and has you on the edge of your seat, snacking feverishly on each bite of popcorn.
The performances by Gyllenhaal, Abdul-Mateen, and González are honest, courageous, and carry the film’s emotional weight; without their contribution, the film would fall flat. The other performances are forgetful but do their job to support the three mains sufficiently.
However, the real hero here is Michael Bay’s return to the form that gained him praise for his early films. This high action with low-CGI approach to filmmaking brings a raw immediacy to every film’s crash, explosion, and character-driven moment. The most exciting shots were in the use of racing drones. Bay accents the action with these shots to extraordinary effect. Having the drone fly over a building and down to the street where the chase takes place gives the film a frantic pace and a feeling that danger is at every turn.
Ambulance is not a movie you’ll be telling your grandkids about, but you’ll be on the edge of your seat and along for the ride while you’re in it.
This is the third film Gyllenhaal has starred in that is a remake of a Danish film. The other two being The Guilty (2021) and Brothers (2009).