Michael Bay directs Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Eiza González in this action thriller where two bank robbing brothers try to make their getaway in the very ambulance containing the cop they didn’t really mean to shoot.
A big project stalled, the pandemic keeping him housebound, Michael Bay declared he wanted to make a small, character driven movie in a claustrophobic setting. Two hours and twenty minutes of luxury cars, assault rifles and fender benders later … Ambulance is clearly his tribute to Bergman and Ozu. I’m no snob. I loves me some Bayhem. The polish and glow he adds to everything, his love of that neon toxic spill green colour, the epileptic fit editing, the schmaltz. This ain’t the movie for him though. The plot hook feels like a throwback to the glorious 1990s where he made his name. Physical stunts, automatic weapons a-go-go, high concept, not a cape or a cowl or a children’s toy IP in sight. Even a comedy cute farting dog is included in the action. Roland Emmerich looks across the crowded room at Michael Bay and raises a glass in tribute, Bay shoots finger guns right back at him. These are not men concerned with making great art, these are titans who want to inflate and overwhelm a marketing idea and spank their audiences into a slap happy submission with sheer god-damned scale of the back of their hands. For an hour I was a happy victim of abuse. It felt like dumb Speed, or stupid Heat, or present day Mad Max: Fury Road only made by a team of creatives who thought Con Air needed twice the amount of bickering cops playing catch up on the ground and To Live And Die In L.A. was lacking in drone shots where we race up and down the side of skyscrapers in place of static establishing shots for us to get our bearings. Beating? Bearings! I’m not complaining about being pummelled, seduced by the sheen. Dragged across tarmac. I just realised too soon that once we were racing across freeways, backstreets and sewers, Ambulance didn’t know what to do with itself. It really is just two men shouting relentlessly at a foxy paramedic while helicopters hassle them. No memorable set piece emerges from them careening around L.A., treating the City of Angeles like their own demolition derby. They just scream, bicker, bond, and try to keep their shot cop alive while a dozen others faceless cops are killed in car wrecks and explosions the wake of their deadening escape causes. Gyllenhaal approaches his chatty bad egg with relish, the acerbic lines just aren’t written down to match the performance. Everyone else is boiled in their own stock. The two extended finales both stall, neither keeping all that unexploited momentum in play. We stop the pursuit, leave the locomotion. Mexican stand-offs when we wanted bright green ambulances flying through the air or scraping through roadblocks. At the two hour point there’s nothing left in the tank. Yet we are being kicked to death by melodrama, everyone gets a teary epilogue. Slow-Mo sad eyes, a hint that a happy ending might be possible even for the arrested, guilty, the traumatised and exhausted. This doesn’t stick the landing, it besieges the runway and mutilates the terminal building. I should have at least liked this, instead I couldn’t wait for it to flatline. Too much, not enough, all in the same near endless sitting.
Perfect Double Bill: Den Of Thieves (2018)
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