Ambulance (2022) movie review
So Ambulance is a new action film from the one and only Michael Bay. The story follows two brothers, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who hijack an ambulance to escape a robbery gone wrong. The film is actually based on a Danish film from 2005 of the same name, with Chris Fedak adapting the screenplay. Ambulance opens this weekend and, while I am certain it will be crushed by Sonic 2, has received a warmer welcome than expected from critics and audiences.
First things first! I feel like I should be calling this film AmbuLAnce. Like, the movie even opens and its just called LA. Pretty sure it’s just a location title, but hey they really like the yellow LA letters in the title. Also I don’t know if it’s the low expectations or that it’s simply leagues better than the garbage Sony put out last week, but I really liked Ambulance! Sorry Ambu-LA-nce. Should you go out to see it? Well do you typically enjoy Michael Bay movies? (I’m not talking Transformers, 2007, sequels here…) If so, yeah this is- I don’t want to say “quality” Michael Bay, but the man knows how to entertain! And entertain this movie does! I- I think I could have worded that a bit more- Look it’s a good time go see it!
Right off the bat I could see what a good time the actors in this film were having. This is nothing new, as a great many actors have expressed how much they enjoy working with Michael Bay. And I don’t blame them. He’s not pushing for anyone to win Oscars here. They show up and get to really just run with the parts they are given, and Jake Gyllenhaal especially takes off with this role! Sure all the characters are almost caricatures at times, but in a film that very clearly explains what type of movie it is, they all fit. If Gyllenhaal is the chaotic, fun performance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II nails the grounded conflict of the two, while Eiza González (who plays an EMT in the ambulance trying to save a cop that has been shot) manages to steal the show as the real heart of the film.
Of course just because an actor is having a great time on set doesn’t mean your movie will be good. You need to entertain, and Michael Bay of all directors seems to exist to entertain first. (Often crafting some surprisingly good movies while doing so.) And what can I say? The man knows how to craft really tense and exciting action sequences! The film’s break-neck pacing really helps, as the over two hour film rarely gives the audience more than a few brief chances to catch our breath. Instead we are given an often silly but incredibly effective chase filled with a constant series of heart-racing problems and quick attempts to keep those problems from going from bad to worse. Even the bank heist near the beginning laid out how this film was going to be very well! There’s a constant, ‘What if this happens? Oh it happened. What next? Okay let’s try this. Okay that worked, but what about this? That’s bad, what now?’ And on and on, and it REALLY works in this movie!
I also really liked the layers of morality in this movie! Sure it’s not as deep as like a drama or anything, but for an action movie to tackle some complex characters like this as well as it does, it’s impressive. Jake Gyllenhaal is definitely the worse person of the brothers, as a seasoned bank robber, while Abdul-Mateen is a former Marine trying to get money for a surgery for his wife. Bad things for good reasons? Yeah it’s been done, but it works well for creating this moral conflict in the characters. I also thought Eiza González was a really interesting character, as someone struggling with apathy versus doing the right thing. And the cops were pretty solid characters too! I won’t go too into it now, but basically Bay has always had this way of delicately giving details about characters that don’t matter too much, but go a long way towards feeling like they are truly fleshed out characters! That extra mile really pays off towards crafting a film like this.
So what’s not to like? I mean the performances are good, the action and tension is thrilling, the story is compelling! I really liked the score by Lorne Balfe, who finally takes notes from a composer OTHER than Hans Zimmer! (In this case the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.) Well for one, the story does have a few off beats when it gets into the third act. I didn’t hate them, and the story does roll with them quite well! But I couldn’t help but feel that they could have been smoother. Also the cinematography and editing…
FIRST OF ALL! The effects work is great! Are the practical effects and crashes and explosions a bit much! Absolutely, but gosh are they exciting! So Mr. Bay, your effects team did a great job despite what you have to say about the hardworking artists on your own stupid movie. Gosh I almost docked this film a point for Bay’s ego in dissing his own filmmaking team, but instead I think I’m going to round up for that team’s work…
ANYWAY yeah as much as I enjoyed this movie, it’s a pain to look at. At least for the first third of the film. I don’t really blame Roberto De Angelis cinematography, but more Michael Bay’s philosophy of maximum eye candy in the visuals. Not every shot needs to be fast, jerky camera movements and quick cuts. It smooths out (meaning you stop noticing), but this was an all-around terribly shot movie with some downright jarring editing to stitch this mess together. Think Bourne: The Fifth Bourne that Nobody Liked (2016? I don’t care), but in addition to no single shot that holds still, we also have just hilariously needless camera pushes and spins as we go up and over a building, spin around, and just cut to whatever else is happening. And the editing? There’s a scene early on where Gyllenhaal takes out a gun (or two) and starts firing, then we cut to someone ducking behind a pillar. And it’s Gyllenhaal. Like… what??
Anyway I’ll climb off my high horse now. Simply put, AmbuLAnce isn’t trying to stand out as a Best Picture nominee for the 2023 Oscars, nor will you wake up thinking about this movie in a year and how it was one of the best movies out there. But it does show that, despite his shortcomings in the idea of what cinematography should look like, Bay still knows how to entertain, and miles ahead of so many other action directors out there. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily my brain was able to click off and simply enjoy Ambulance. And while it is a flawed film with so many annoying Michael Bay tropes, I think I’d watch it again when it comes to Redbox… So yeah, don’t expect Heat (1995) or anything, but I think Ambulance is actually a pretty good time! Solid 7/10.
So Ambu-LA-nce? Did you see it ? What did you think? And what is your all-time favorite Michael Bay movie and why? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And stay tuned because we will have our review for Sonic 2 out tomorrow! Thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince