Buckle up and get ready for plenty of rock n’roll action because all-star blockbuster filmmaker Michael Bay is back to turn up the volume on big-screen entertainment with his high stakes, peddle to the metal action-thriller Ambulance. And this film will spike your adrenaline to the max!
In this breakneck thriller from director-producer Michael Bay, decorated veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), desperate for money to cover his wife’s medical bills, asks for help from the one person he knows he shouldn’t—his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal). A charismatic career criminal, Danny instead offers him a score: the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history: $32 million. With his wife’s survival on the line, Will can’t say no.
If Michael Bay has one special talent as a filmmaker it’s throwing everything at the cinema canvas and taking audiences for the ride of their lives in blockbuster after blockbuster, and his latest work, the high stakes action-thriller Ambulance, is sure to have your adrenal gland working overtime. With this latest blockbuster, Bay wastes no time in gearing up and he throws his audience straight into the action right from the opening frame. Bay sets the scene with a pair of long lost brothers, The Sharps, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), whose criminal past and family life has seen them split apart until desperate times force them back together. Pulled into a bank robbery as an unwilling pawn, Will, goes along with Danny’s scheme. Everything is running fine until it doesn’t and soon the bullets start flying and the audience is thrown into one hell of a storm.
Following the robbery, which quickly goes to hell, Bay throws Danny and Will, two fugitives who are armed to the teeth and have all of LA law closing in around them into a surprise ambulance, which is overseen by ace EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez), who is trying to save the life of a police officer who was shot in the midst of their botched robbery. And it’s here where things get interesting. Kinetic and fast-moving, Ambulance is a film that puts its foot on the accelerator and doesn’t let it off for a moment. Bay throws tension at the audience from every angle and as the chase moves forward things go from bad to worse, and the chaos closes in around our three passengers, you feel every single moment of this frantic action thriller and damn does Bay provide you with a rush!
Ambulance is effective as an action thriller because Bay invests in a story device that I like to label ‘action as narrative’. This is where the narrative is contained within the action and the pulsing beats, alongside the daring car chases, countless explosions and bursts of automatic gunfire, add to expressing the story. And this is exactly where Ambulance sits. With three characters who are out on the edge and stuck in a steel cage of a rolling ambulance that is travelling at speed across Los Angeles, the stakes could not be higher, and minute by minute the intensity ramps up. Ambulance is a film that delivers on a magnified level of suspense and Bay places a vice-like grip on his audience’s attention. There are plenty of moments, from an explosive gunfight on the streets of Los Angeles to freeway car smashing action, to an intense, visceral, and bloody open body surgery that will make you jump up in your seat, and all of it is a part of this rollercoaster experience of a movie.
Stepping onto the screen as charismatic bank robber Danny Sharp is Jake Gyllenhaal and the twisted and snappy character of Danny gives Gyllenhaal a lot of room to work in. Trading as a luxury sports car dealer, Danny is in fact a seasoned criminal and bank robber with a long family history tied to the Los Angeles criminal underworld. Longing for the gold ol’ days with his younger brother Will, and to make one hell of score, he soon finds himself in the crosshairs of LA law enforcement and that’s when things get crazy. Gyllenhaal moves from charismatic and cool to vindictive and frenzied quickly and he’s no man to be messed with. With a hair-trigger temper and an even quicker trigger finger, Danny is a criminal on edge and he makes for an intimidating antagonist, and with Gyllenhaal’s show of intensity and unpredictability in the role, audiences are certainly kept on edge.
Sitting across from Danny is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp, Danny’s younger adoptive brother who walked out on him and their family’s criminal past a long time ago, but who now in desperation is drawn back to his brother’s criminal impulses. Where Danny is the impulse of Ambulance, Will is the film’s conscious. Abdul-Mateen II’s Will is a direct contradiction to Gyllenhaal’s Danny and their back and forth, which ranges from a close brotherhood bond to a vindictive and situation-induced hatred for one another keeps you on edge as an audience member. Abdul-Mateen II also shares a great chemistry with Gyllenhaal and you easily buy into their shared past as brothers as his stance as a good man in a bad situation tests his ability as a performer.
Stuck in between the Sharp brothers and staring into the barrel of a gun is Eiza Gonzalez as quick-thinking and wipsmart EMT Cam Thompson. Regarded as the best EMT working on the job, but who has a problem dealing with people and just compartmentalizing the carnage that she has to deal with day in and day out, Gonzalez’s Cam soon finds herself in the middle of an even more hectic situation and she becomes a foil for Danny and Will’s escape. While she might have a gun pointed at her, Cam is in no way any type of victim and she gets right in Danny’s face, especially when it comes to keeping the wounded cop alive in the back of her ambulance, the only insurance that Danny and Will have of any chance of survival. The narrative and fast pace of Ambulance certainly test Gonzalez as a performer and she stands up to the pressure and delivers a solid performance.
With Ambulance you’re very much a participant in the action and narrative of this fast-paced blockbuster and during the extreme moments of this film, you feel like you’re fully immersed in it, rather than just being a mere spectator. Bay holds nothing back with this bold and intense piece of cinema and you can literally smell the gun powder as he turns the streets of Los Angeles into a wrecking yard and things get crazier by the minute. While the carnage is mad and in your face, Bay’s reliance on practical effects makes the intensity of this film real, and there’s no doubting that the chaos that he orchestrates is anything but authentic. Bay makes Ambulance a true blockbuster spectacle and it’s a pulse-pounding experience to witness up close.
By the time the credits begin to roll on Ambulance, your adrenal gland will be working overtime and the adrenaline will be surging through your veins. This is a blockbuster film that doesn’t stop for a second and it’s one hell of a fun ride.
Image: Universal Pictures