Ambulance is honestly everything I ever wanted from a movie titled Ambulance. (To the point, this one time, I openly admit the title of this piece is fully set up on a tee to be quoted on an Ambulance poster.)
When the pandemic started, oh, I don’t even know how long ago now, I wound up rewatching a lot of action movies from the late ’80s and early ’90s. Now, these are movies I knew I liked, but, rewatching them – like, actually, rewatching them; not in a passive, “it happens to be on cable” way, but, instead, “sit down and watch it from start to finish” way – something weird happened. They weren’t just something I enjoyed. They were now glorious. After 20 some years of over-the-top CGI stunts (that, somehow, seems to be getting worse), as opposed to real stunts, seeing movies that had actual car chases and stunt work made my brain short circuit a bit. Because I’m so used to seeing fake-looking CGI, my brain rarely responds. But when I watch those older movies with real stunt work – say, something like Speed – my brain thinks it’s real and starts releasing adrenaline and I feel really good. Micheal Bay’s Ambulance made me feel like this again. I watched this movie in an almost empty screening room and there were times I found myself applauding. (Bay admits the little CGI in this movie, he’s not happy with it.)
The bad news about Ambulance is, from my experience, the human body cannot release enough adrenaline to keep up with the movie, so it just kind of putters out and there’s nothing left by the end. I honestly left this movie exhausted. Not in a negative, “I didn’t enjoy this and now I’m exhausted,” kind of way. But more, “I spent all day playing touch football, or whatever, and I had a great time and now I want to go to bed.”
If you’ve seen the trailer for Ambulance, maybe you’re thinking, oh, I bet they saved most of the action scenes for this. No. Ambulance clocks in at 136 minutes and I would guess around 70 percent of those minutes are devoted to an intense car chase. Or, more specifically, an intense Ambulance chase.
There is a plot. I will explain it. Yahya Abdul-Mateen plays Will, a veteran who has been denied insurance coverage for an experimental surgery for his wife, who is desperately in need of money. The good news for Will is that his adopted brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal, who is having the time of his life), is a notorious bank robber. Unfortunately for Will, Danny won’t just give him the money – Danny said it’s all currently tied up in this new heist being planned – but invites Will to join the team for a bank robbery and a split of their bounty.
As you may have guessed from the trailer, things do not go smoothly. Surrounded by police (led by Garret Dillahunt who is very good as “the person who knows what to do and how to get things done”), Danny and Will hijack an ambulance. Along with the ambulance comes an EMT named Cam (Eiza González), who is considered the best at her job. And her patient, Zach (Jackson White), a police officer bleeding out because he was shot by Will. (There’s a particularly gnarly scene halfway through this movie where Zach’s spleen explodes (I said, “Oh good god,” out loud by myself when this happened) and Cam has to perform surgery on Zach in an Ambulance that is currently involved in a car chase. What a movie.
Even going back to Armageddon, Michael Bay seems to be fascinated with people who are “the best at what they do.” Bruce Willis’s Harry Stamper was the best driller in the world, so he’s the only one who can save Earth. In Ambulance we have the best bank robber, the best EMT, the best former military soldier, the best LAPD captain, and the best bank-robbing task force FBI agent. Everyone is THE BEST. Admittedly, when everyone has been touted as the best, it did create a situation where I didn’t know quite how this movie would end. Even though a movie like this, it should be reasonably easy to guess the ending. But if everyone is the best, how can anyone fail?
If you’re looking for a movie with deeper meaning and a statement on the world today, Ambulance probably isn’t going to satisfy that urge. If you want an almost two-hour-long car chase, with real stunts and sweeping drone shots and Jake Gyllenhaal going for it as much as he’s ever gone for it before in his career, that has no ties to any existing IP or franchise (though Bay can’t resist making references to both The Rock and Bad Boys) you will like Ambulance.
Look, I’m not a scientist, but, again, chances are, during this movie, you will just run out of adrenaline. Your body will say, “sorry, tapped out, you’re on your own.” So my advice is you might want to pre-schedule in some time for a nap right after. Please make more movies with real stunts. Please make more movies like Ambulance.
‘Ambulance’ opens in theaters this weekend.