“We don’t stop”, Jake Gyllenhaal’s flashy bank robber informs his accomplice, as they whirl down the freeway in a stolen ambulance complete with injured charge onboard.
Likely also the motivational phrase director Michael Bay uttered on the set most days of his latest film.
Buckle up. Hold on. Grit teeth. The king of the bash, bang, and boom is your chauffeur for the next two and a half hours – and he’s his foot is pushing down hard on the gas.
“Heat” meets “Speed” in a Guarana-infused mocktail of expense cinema trickery that takes the 2005 Danish film of the same name and plonks it on the back alleys, highways, and channels of LA.
While the original was a modestly-budgeted, intimate, and rather short thriller, Bay – returning to more adult action blockbusters after torturing us with those inane “Transformers” movies for years – Hollywood’s take is an overlong, slightly overwrought, and completely ridiculous excuse to make Universal’s bean counters sweat. And boy is it fun!
Set over the course of one day, “Ambulance” fixes on two brothers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who, desperate after a bank robbery goes wrong, are forced to steal an ambulance – holding hostage the paramedic (Eiza González) and badly injured cop (Jackson White) strapped to the stretcher inside. With the authorities on their tail, the boys drive – at high speed, and as recklessly as ever, despite the injured officer onboard – around the city skirting for an exit strategy.
The script, by TV alum Chris Fedak, is barely there – and it’s as illogical as a flyscreen on a submarine – and though the performances by the main trio (Gyllenhaal, Abdul-Mateen II, and especially Gonzalez) elevate the material, characters have been better fleshed out in episodes of “Knight Rider” than they have here. But ya know what? That’s what you’d expect from a Michael Bay film – he of ‘’Bad Boys’’, ‘’The Rock’’ and “Armageddon” fame. This is a man who cares not for deep plotting or award shows, instead his attention is on leaving no car unflipped, no camera stable, and no sky unburnished. His mission is to give audiences a good time and, even at the price of a few snobbish unintentional giggles from audience members here and there, he delivers on the promise.
Bay, a music video director who carried the same toolbox to his feature film work, knows his audience and they’re well and truly taken care of here. This is a Bay film through and through. If you’re looking substance, you’re out of luck, if you’re after style and ridiculously fun silliness – chew on those kernels and enjoy. After the shite couple of years we’ve had, it’s the perfect kind of big screen entertainment really.
Tell me you don’t want to distract yourself from the headlines this weekend and instead go with “Speed in an Ambulance”!? My word you do!