April 7, 2022

CINEMA | Michael Bay Chases Mayhem in L.A. – 'Ambulance'

"We don't get to walk off into the sunset."
Jake Gyllenhaal Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Michael Bay | Ambulance
Universal Pictures / Bay Films
Bombastic auteur Michael Bay returns to smaller-scale (for him, anyway) filmmaking. Based on the 2005 Danish film of the same name, Ambulance should be a tight action thriller in the hands of a more restrained director, but Bay simply cannot resist ratcheting up his cinematic mayhem (aka "Bayhem") on the screen and stretching a rather simple bank robber hostage high-speed chase sequence into a full-length film and then some.

Starring the very charismatic trio of Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza González as a pair of estranged bank-robbing brothers and the heroic EMT they take hostage, Ambulance is pure Bay in all his chaotic visual splendour. Despite the insanely ridiculous chases through the streets of Los Angeles, there's a poetic dance to the choreographic action he cobbles together that's constantly striking.

Scripted thinly by Chris Fedak, how Abdul-Mateen's ex-Marine Will gets immediately roped into an extremely ill-advised robbery in the middle of the day in Downtown L.A. with cops everywhere upon meeting Gyllenhaal's criminal Danny and asking him for a loan to pay for his wife's experimental surgery is laughable yet wastes little time getting right into the thick of the action. Their chemistry is real and very much sells a relationship as conflicted adoptive brothers with a long, sordid family backstory.

There's little Bay can resist including clear namechecks to his past films like Bad Boys and The Rock. Everyone does their job as longtime camera operator turned relatively novice cinematographer Roberto De Angelis captures the intense visual glory of explosions stunningly while shooting the hell out of Los Angeles in broad daylight with such stylish verve despite the outdated fetishism of masculine machismo, pro-law enforcement, and military bravado.

Ambulance features so much maximalist destruction and rampant carnage you forget its strange message about healthcare for all and how much violent power the police wield with seemingly no oversight. Bay is at his height with clear restrictions, a tight budget, and fairly little in terms of complicated exposition. He never fails to go for it and is still completely unrestrained. It's largely absurd, overlong fun executed very earnestly by A-list actors.


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