It’s 2022, and Michael Bay has a new film, Ambulance.
His leads are both established, Jake Gyllenhaal in particular being a cinematic darling, and the face of some really solid movies in the last few years. And Yahya Abdul-Mateen II made a stony faced and compelling performance in last years Candyman.
So has Bay taken these strong leads, and given them a more nuanced, calm, profound movie to star in?
But, is it any good?
Actually, yes. It is.
Will Sharp (Abdul-Mateen) is a down on his luck ex-marine. His wife needs experimental surgery, and he is struggling to secure the funds for her to have it. As a child he was taken in by Danny Sharp (Gyllenhaal) and his family, and they grew up together as brothers.
Will joined the marines to escape from the legacy of his adopted family, as their father figure was a career criminal, and apparently a pretty nasty one at that.
Will goes to Danny to ask to borrow the money for his wife’s surgery, and Danny instead ropes Will in to joining him in a bank robbery. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong, a cop gets shot, and the two of them end up driving in an ambulance and start a car chase with the injured cop – Zach (Jackson White) and a paramedic – Cam (Eliza González) in the back.
Trying to find them, is Garret Dillahunt’s cocky Captain Monroe, FBI Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell) and Officer Zach’s partner Mark (Cedric Sanders), among others.
As you may be able to tell, there are a lot of characters. Ambulance is a chaotic experience stuffed with so many bad guys, good guys, kind of bad guys, and trying to be good guys that it can be a bit head spinning. This is of course combined with the camera literally spinning. A lot. After all, it is a Michael Bay film.
It is tonally inconsistent, and there are a couple of unfortunate moments when Bay chooses to name check his own films, which seems patently uncool and a bit arrogant. Maybe he hoped people wouldn’t notice.
That being said, it’s a riot. While there is a fair bit of the pro-cop message we’re familiar with for some of his films, there is much less of a pro-military message and it certainly has more criticisms of America than you might expect, not least the criminality of healthcare being inaccessible even to veterans and their families.
Abdul-Mateen’s Will’s choice to go on the heist seems at least vaguely believable, even if he does come to it very quickly, and Gyllenhaal’s slight mania is just balanced enough to work. Bay’s message here seems to be about the selfless work done by those in healthcare, and as such it rides a much more left leaning political line than we are used to from him.
Yes, there could be fewer moments when the camera does a somersault. And yes, he didn’t need to destroy quite so many pallets and flower stalls. But without that, would he be Michael Bay?
Ultimately, it’s an entertaining romp from the guy who has essentially created his own genre. After a couple of years where things haven’t been that great, couldn’t we all use a bit of Bayhem?
Ambulance is out in cinemas now.