Ambulance (2022) REVIEW – A Chaotic Delight


Michael Bay’s Ambulance is a remake of a 2005 Danish film of the same name, and the third LA heist movie to be released in the last four years after Den of Thieves and Wrath of Man, but it is wholly a “Michael Bay Film.” Unlike Den of Thieves, which functions as a sort of tough guy epic, and Wrath of Man, which may well be Guy Ritchie’s most austere film, Ambulance (2022) is a pure thrill ride.

The script, by long-time TV writer but first-time film scribe Chris Fedak, is a marvel of efficiency as the film begins. It quickly establishes the relationship between adoptive brothers Will (​​Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), gives a brief character sketch of hardworking and no-nonsense EMT Cam (Eiza González), informs us that Will’s wife needs money for surgery, and within the first ten minutes (or at least what feels like just ten minutes) throws us into the already planned heist Danny has organized.

Already in these opening, mostly mundane, scenes, Bay’s camera is restless. It flies over LA, swoops down the facades of skyscrapers, and simply refuses to remain steady in dialogue scenes. So when things truly go off the rails and the heist is interrupted by a Special Investigation Section (SIS) team, all hell breaks loose both in Ambulance’s world and in the filmmaking. Bay unleashes a glorious chaos that only grows exponentially when the brothers hijack an ambulance on which Cam is attempting to save the life of a young LAPD officer and use it to slip by the police surrounding the bank, leading us into a chase across the city that lasts the rest of the movie.

Bay’s discovery of drones may be the best thing that has happened for his filmmaking, as the soaring and swooping of the camera is beyond anything that’s been done before. Whether audiences will find this joyously thrilling or nauseating may vary, but the technique is undeniably exciting and new. The shootouts and the extended car chase aren’t just shot with an endlessly moving camera though — they’re also edited with such frantic energy that there are moments where it’s unclear exactly where we are or how we got there. But that same frantic energy and the unstoppable (it goes remarked upon at least three times in the movie that the ambulance “does not stop”) forward momentum of these action scenes means that the audience can’t even catch their breath long enough to ask “wait, how did we get here” because we’re already being strung along into the next riveting moment of these set pieces.

The film also benefits from what seem to be almost entirely practical car stunts. With the exception of one shot that moves through the twisted metal of a crash, every crash, flip, and explosion looks like it was shot with real cars. And in one of the best sequences in the film, as a helicopter chases the ambulance down the LA River while Danny leans out of the window and opens the backdoor to fire on it with a machine gun, it’s clear that the Danny we see is not Gyllenhaal but a stunt double. But instead of creating a disconnect, the obviousness of the stunt double only adds to the greatness of the sequence by making clear that what’s on screen is real.

But the near non-stop action of the film aren’t the only joys that it offers. There are multiple references in dialogue to other films of Bay’s, including an obvious but still chuckle worthy joke about confusing Bay’s film The Rock with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The plot offers some twists that are so contrived that they circle back to being perfect for a film this clearly concerned with action at the expense of plot. All of the actors are committed to their performances, with Abdul-Mateen and González offering far more pathos than the movie needs and Gyllenhaal seeming to have the absolute time of his life playing Danny as a madman on a mission.

The film stumbles a bit in its final moments as it struggles to deliver an ending that lives up to the adrenaline fueled chaos of its previous two hours and leans too heavily on emotion in a movie that’s been uninterested in anything but action thus far. But, overall, Ambulance manages to function as a two hour and fifteen minute thrill ride that by all rights should only have been 90 minutes, so a bit of a weak ending doesn’t undo the joys of what came before.

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Ambulance is Bay’s best film in years as it focuses purely on his strengths of chaotic action and delivers a delightful thrill ride for almost the entirety of its surprisingly long runtime.