If you had told me earlier this year that even after seeing Scream, Jackass Forever, and The Batman (all movies I loved!) that Michael Bay’s latest would be the most fun of the year so far, I would have never believed you. And yet, here we are!
If you have even a working knowledge of movies, you likely know who Michael Bay is. He is infamous for his loud, obnoxious, testosterone-fueled action movies. Some that are enjoyable, despite their flaws (See: Bad Boys, Armageddon, the first Transformers). Others in his filmography are some of the worst of their given release year (See: every other Transformers movie).
Despite the mixed reactions to his existence in Hollywood by film critics, general audiences tend to eat his movies up. They are dumb, fun, and easy to swallow in one sitting. 2022 has brought us the crown jewel though. After several decades in the industry, Michael Bay has brought us the dumbest, most fun, and easiest to swallow film of his career in Ambulance.
Easy Money – or is it?
I won’t spend a lot of time describing the plot of Ambulance. The movie doesn’t, so why should I? Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is working to pay off his wife’s medical bills for the treatment of her mysterious illness. After trying and failing to get help from the insurance company, Will is desperate.
Against his better judgment, he turns towards his brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal). As luck would have it, when Will shows up to Danny’s business, Danny is about to leave to pick up some money himself! He and his crew are about to rob a bank (Danny’s 38th!) and invite Will to come along to get a cut of the earning. Reluctantly, Will joins the crew.
The plan goes shockingly well at first. But the film is over two hours long and we have only briefly been introduced to the titular ambulance. So, of course, things go awry.
After escaping the bank in a hijacked ambulance, Will, Danny, and their two hostages – an EMT and a wounded police officer – go on the ride of their lives, as they engage in a high-speed chase throughout Los Angeles.
Non-Stop Thrill Ride
If that plot seems thin to you, I assure you, it is even thinner. The high speed chase takes up about an hour and a half of the film’s total running time. While that may sound like it would get tiring – it is nothing of the sort. Bay films the chase with such high-octane energy, the movie never slows down and never gets old. Even when all signs point to it doing just that.
Any time the energy threatens to deplete, Bay and company introduce a new obstacle in the road – sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively – that our characters have to navigate. Whether it is a ruptured spleen, a one-way road, or familial conflicts, these characters never get a chance to breathe – and neither does the audience!
From the moment the bulk of the plot kicked in to the end, I was legitimately on the edge of my seat. I was smiling from ear to ear, wondering how they could up the ante, and every time, I was satisfied by the answer.
While I can admit that this was dumb fun, I have to also give credit where its due. The cast – though not extraordinary – play their parts with a lot more gravitas than required in a movie like this. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, in particular, draws a lot of sympathy from the audience as a man desperate for some kind of help. He has a sick wife and a young child at home and he is just trying to grasp at anything to help pull his family up.
Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, plays a madman. Danny is a chaotic person who lives to steal and get away with it. He will stop at nothing to get away from the police cars, helicopters, and tanks trying to take him down. It’s real life to Will but to Danny, it is a game of cat and mouse. He will do whatever it takes to win.
The energy that Gyllenhaal brings to the role keeps you rooting for him to get away with it. Is he a bad person who hurts innocent people in an attempt to save himself? Absolutely. Is he so out of his mind that he is somehow brilliant? 100%. He is menacing in a way that is exciting to watch. Like the Joker or Michael Corleone.
Eiza Gonzalez plays the hostage EMT, Cam. In past Michael Bay productions, the women are often unfairly treated. Relegated to roles to be gawked at. Here, Gonzalez is often shown to be outsmarting her captors and is not going to give up trying to get out of her position.
There is a lot going on within the doors of the ambulance and each actor plays their roles with so much tenacity that you are practically begging to see their eventual fates. Will they make it out alive? If they do, will they be arrested or escape? Will Cam get through this day of work? As the movie speeds along, you can’t help but ponder the possibilities.
Perfect for Action Fans
Ambulance is not the highest of art. But it is a genuinely well-made, often silly, action film that is sure to please its viewers. If you like action movies, there is no doubt in my mind that you will have the time of your life watching Ambulance.
Michael Bay is not always a director whose films I recommend. In fact, most of the time, I won’t. This, however, is a strong recommend for those who tend to like similar films. I doubt that it will convert any action movie haters. But for those ready to ride, I have one piece of advice:
Buckle your seatbelt.