Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Moses Ingram, Jackson White, Cedric Sanders, Garret Dillahunt, Keir O'Donnell, A Martinez, Olivia Stambouliah, Colin Woodell
Written by: Chris Fedak, based on a screenplay by Laurits Munch-Petersen, Lars Andreas Pedersen
Directed by: Michael Bay
MPAA Rating: R for intense violence, bloody images and language throughout
Running Time: 136
Date: 04/08/2022

Ambulance (2022)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Siren Song

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A typically over-the-top Michael Bay production, exhausting and far too long, this action movie surprisingly passes muster with its batch of colorful, likable characters, and its wiry sense of humor.

A remake of a 2005 Danish film, which itself runs only 80 minutes, Ambulance stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as former Marine Will Sharp. Will is out of work, has a small child, and needs over $200,000 for an operation for his wife. He goes to his adoptive brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), a career criminal, to ask for help. Instead, Danny asks Will to come along on a bank robbery, which is sure to go off without a hitch.

Meanwhile, a rookie cop (Jackson White) has worked up the nerve to ask out one of the tellers, and talks his way into the bank while the robbery is in progress. The cop upsets the robbery and is shot. Will and Danny see their chance for escape when an ambulance arrives to pick up the wounded cop. With kidnapped EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza González) in the back, the robbers must go on the run while keeping the bleeding cop alive, or face the wrath of the entire LAPD.

With the bulk of the running time following the ambulance racing through the city streets, pursued by cops, as well as multiple crashes and shootouts, Ambulance certainly could have benefitted from some tightening. One of the biggest twists, a plan to use decoys to finally evade the police, takes a very long time from its conception to its execution, and a good deal of momentum is lost along the way. Plus, it's just difficult to be constantly gripping our armrests for that amount of time.

Additionally, Bay's pointless, show-offy camerawork, with daredevil swoops from bizarre, impossible angles, may cause headaches. Even so, the movie has so many weird touches, and such an appealingly strange sense of humor, that moments like a desperate, ruthlessly gory life-saving operation, or a break to listen to a little Christopher Cross, are irresistible.

Gyllenhaal, especially, is at the top of his game, as manic and zany as he was in Bong Joon-ho's Okja, mind racing and barking one-liners that suggest he's really enjoying all this. His enthusiasm seems to lift up his constant co-stars Abdul-Mateen and González, and they feed on his energy. A fine use of Los Angeles locations and backdrops completes the picture, and makes Ambulance a not-bad big screen offering sans superheroes.

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