Ambulance review | Michael Bay thrill ride is enjoyably intense

A star rating of 3 out of 5.


On paper, the premise of Michael Bay’s latest action flick sounds pretty much indestructible: after a botched heist, two bank-robbing brothers make a getaway in a stolen ambulance while a paramedic desperately attempts to keep a police officer alive in the back of the vehicle.

Although technically a remake of a 2005 Danish film of the same name, Bay claims he deliberately avoided watching that version in a bid to make Ambulance as distinct as possible – and indeed nobody could deny that the Transformers filmmaker’s stamp is all over this rather relentless film, which proves great entertainment value in spite of a multitude of flaws.

The MarkMeets crew were on the red carpet at the recent London film premiere and at the film’s opening, we’re introduced to Will (Yahya Abdul Mateen II) an Afghanistan war veteran desperate to earn enough money to cover his wife’s dearly expensive medical bills. Despite being warned against it, Will’s first port of call is to check in with his unpredictable bank robber brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose family he was adopted by as a young child and with whom he still shares something of a fraternal relationship, even if their lives have taken them down very different paths. Naturally, this visit has barely begun before Will is roped into taking part in a huge heist – with the promise of major cash rewards when all goes according to plan.


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But of course, things don’t go according to plan. The operation begins to go terribly awry when they’re interrupted by a clueless police officer as he attempts to ask out a bank teller – and events eventually lead to Will shooting and severely wounding the officer. Thankfully Cam (Eiza Gonzalez), a supremely talented but somewhat closed-off paramedic who deals with all sorts of nasty accidents around LA, is on hand to attend to the injured copper. But with the authorities beginning to circle, Danny and Will are left with no choice but to commandeer her ambulance to make an escape, as she frantically attempts to keep the officer alive.

From then on, the film essentially plays out as one extra-long car chase, with Bay’s trademark bombastic direction present in all its glory. Throughout, Bay’s camera rarely stays still, sweeping and swooping through the LA streets as the ambulance does its best to evade the constantly growing police presence. This kinetic camerawork, coupled with Bay’s choppy editing style and an extremely foreboding score, ensure the film is so intense that it occasionally comes off as almost like a parody. There’s a relentless, never-take-the-foot-off-the-pedal pace that is difficult to sustain over a two-hour runtime, and there are some inevitable lags where the adrenaline threatens to wear off.

The writing, meanwhile, is by and large extremely cheesy, with characters frequently uttering ridiculous lines such as: “You know when you’re playing hide and seek, that feeling you get when you’re about to get caught? I’m great at making people feel that way!” or “Get a pen and paper and write this on it: f**k off.”

And yet despite those flaws, the film is – for the most part – tremendously entertaining viewing. The performances from the main cast certainly help in this regard, with Gyllenhaal looking like he’s having a huge amount of fun as Danny, a career criminal who doesn’t like to think of himself as the bad guy despite his increasingly unhinged behaviour. Gyllenhaal spends the majority of the runtime yelling and swearing, and it’s a hugely enjoyable portrait of a descent into increasing desperation.

He’s paired well with Abdul-Mateen, who is an altogether more grounded presence in the driver’s seat, while Gonzalez shines as the initially rather detached Cam. As the film goes on, it’s the dynamic between these two characters that essentially becomes the heart and soul of the piece, and there are some well-played scenes towards the end.

Interspersed throughout the chase are also some great set pieces, the highlight of which is an unbearably tense sequence in which Cam must perform surgery on the injured officer. Her job is to extract a bullet from his body while she’s talked through the tricky procedure by some doctors on Zoom and the result is a gory, bloody mess that verges on full-on body horror.

Meanwhile, there’s also a strain of absurdist humour running through the film – a weird rant about flamingos here, a random appearance from a dog there – which occasionally breaks up the intensity of the endeavour, although even most of the comic relief is delivered in the form of screaming and ranting, and not all of the jokes really land. On the whole, though, this is an enjoyably intense thrill ride – complete with several fun performances from a very game A-list cast.

Ambulance is showing in UK cinemas from Friday 25th March 2022.

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Simon Costanza
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