Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 16 minutes, Director – Michael Bay
Two brothers (Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) hijack an ambulance, with medic (Eiza González) and shot cop (Jackson White) still inside, when a bank robbery goes wrong, leading to a police chase across LA.
As the camera spins and whirls and rotates and circles around the various scenes, both in and out of the cramped title space of Michael Bay’s latest, there’s much footage within Ambulance which could easily be set to Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round. If that were to be the case then the other half of the film could perhaps be backed by the Peter Gunn Theme and Can’t Turn You Loose. There’s even a true “Hey Jake, I gotta pull over” moment in there as another load of police cars tumble and flip down a slight hill and the central figures once again escape. However, unlike the Blues brothers there’s no opportunity to stop for a quick singalong of the theme to Rawhide, or Stand By Your Man – although there is an oddly placed rendition of Sailing in the middle of what’s supposed to be a tense car chase.
Brothers Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) have hijacked an ambulance after a bank robbery has gone very wrong, and most of their fellow thieves have been killed – presumptively, it’s hard to know who’s who and what’s going on during the actually robbery sequence. However, inside the vehicle is ‘get the job done and move on’ medic Cam (Eiza González – who unfortunately gets very little to do as the spotlight often lies on Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen) and the shot cop (Jackson White) she’s tending to before getting to the hospital. Despite the fact that both can help the two men – Will more reluctant about everything that’s happened, only wanting to get money to pay for an operation his wife (Moses Ingram) needs but they can’t afford – in not being killed by the police, at least instantly, they do also limit where they can go, Cam insisting they get to a hospital as soon as possible before her patient dies.
Soon Danny’s early statement of “my city, my rules, my job!” falls apart as the messy parade of cop cars behind them grows; sirens blaring, and the route through the maze of LA becomes increasingly dangerous. It’s a chaotic piece that in true Michael Bay fashion screams “Cool! Lads!”, although with less explosions than you might think. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what’s going on, with the dizzying nature of the constantly moving camera and the sometimes chaotic editing.
And yet, overtime, as the piece becomes more and more ridiculous there’s a level of enjoyment to be had from it. You may not be truly engaged, but there are certainly some sequences that build up a sense of tension – although who it’s directed towards I couldn’t tell you. Yet, as the film goes on to say that it doesn’t have a number of enjoyable moments which gradually bring you in would be a lie. No matter how many flaws it has, and there are quite a few within the jumble of ideas and senses it hurls at you, there’s still an entertainment factor being emitted from the unfolding events – and perhaps it’s the flaws which create part of this feeling within the endlessly hectic sprawl.
It all leads to a film which has a slightly overlong feeling, pushed by a forced ending of obviousness and bringing back pretty much everything from the last 2 hours+. But, what has come beforehand has certainly been a messy affair, but one that’s partly messy because its ridiculousness and truly off-the-walls nature. A feeling which as it goes on manages to slightly bring you in to the piece to experience some form of amusement and eventual entertainment from what’s happening. You might not always be able to tell what’s happening, but within the sequences you can there’s a level of tension and entertainment which undeniably help bring you in that bit more to the mad, occasionally explosive (this is a Michael Bay film after all, one which screams that fact, although this is of the kind which he doesn’t appear to have made for quite some time) ride.
For both better and worse Ambulance is a chaotic, frenzied rush of ideas and moments which scream Michael Bay. A film of the kind he hasn’t made for quite some time when you’re able to tell what’s going on there are elements of tension and amusement to be found amongst the oddly placed tangents of humour.