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'Ambulance' reviews hail a throwback to '90s-era action with Michael Bay's best movie in years

A remake of a 2005 Danish film, Ambulance swerves into theaters everywhere Friday, April 8.

By Josh Weiss
(L-R) Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in Ambulance, directed by Michael Bay.

Buckle up tight or you might just go flying right through the windshield of Ambulance, Michael Bay's latest contribution to the heart-thumping action genre. According to the first reviews making their way online, the film (a remake of a 2005 Danish movie of the same name) feels like a throwback to the off-the-wall insanity of '90s action cinema, which Bay helped craft with his action classics Armageddon and The Rock.

In addition to drawing parallels to Bay's early efforts, critics are also comparing Ambulance (out in theaters this Friday) to high-octane, edge-of-your-seat touchstones like Jan de Bont's Speed, Michael Mann's Heat, and even Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. Jake Gyllenhaal is said to give a scene-chewing performance as Danny Sharp, a veteran criminal who convinces his adoptive brother Will (a more grounded Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to rob a bank, so that Will can pay for his wife's mounting medical bills.

The heist invariably goes south and the siblings are forced to make a quick getaway in nearby ambulance that just so happens to contain an injured cop and a hapless EMT (Eiza González) in back. What ensues is a high-speed chase across the City of Angels that keeps the viewer guessing (and trying not to wet their pants from all the excitement). Put another way, it's a welcome return to basics for Mr. Bay who turns in his best (and highest-rated) thriller in years.

"It’s not just the action sequences that are frantically staged, it’s everything. Bay even shoots dialogue scenes in the same fashion, with the camera flying around as if it’s having a nervous breakdown and enough edits for a dozen Step Up movies. And he uses so many aerial shots it’s a wonder there was a drone left in Hollywood." -Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

Ambulance, a propulsively violent and in-your-face chase thriller, stakes out a genre we might simply call ’90s excess ... It’s Speed crossed with the O.J. Bronco chase crossed with Die Hard on an EMS van, and it’s all served up in a pedal-to-the-metal mode of overwrought hyper intensity one could describe as Bay to the Max." -Owen Gleiberman, Variety

"Michael Bay, the hyperactive thyroid of action cinema, has taken a scrawny little low-budget Danish film called Ambulancen from 2005, about two criminal brothers who hijack an ambulance, and has put an IV in its tiny arm and pumped it full of radioactive steroids." -Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

"[The] chase, which occupies the bulk of the picture, is not only thrilling but credible, with Bay’s primary reliance on practical effects and stunts lending real weight and gravity to the events. It’s also gorier than you might expect — particularly a bit of improvised surgery with an ace pay-off — and while I’ve grown incredibly tired of incongruent needle drops, we have one here that’s quite effective." -Jason Bailey, The Playlist

"Ambulance is a big, loud action flick that stomps its way through downtown Los Angeles and leaves you wondering what the hell you just witnessed. It’s Dog Day Afternoon meets Speed with all the explosions and car chases you should expect from a Michael Bay movie. Subtlety is off the table when it comes to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance, who clearly has a blast with his over-the-top scene-chewing, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II adds a touch of heart to it all." -Ryan Leston, IGN

It’s by no means always coherent: that relentless pursuit of pace often results in hard-to-follow editing, and the director seems to share the same philosophy towards sound-mixing as Christopher Nolan, with sonic fury sometimes prioritized over audibility ... 
It doesn’t all work. But when the sirens are blaring at their best, it is a reminder of why nobody does bold, brash, bonkers blockbusting quite as thrillingly — or loudly — as Bay." -John Nugent, Empire Magazine

"Ambulance succeeds because it is one of the director’s most 'knowing' movies. There isn’t any slick pretension that tries to make you think you’re watching an overtly serious crime thriller a la Michael Mann’s Heat. In the Bay tradition, this film is glossy, loud, and overbearing, and delivered with a wink, it’s one of his best works to date." -Eric Eisenberg, CinemaBlend

"From the moment the heist goes awry, it becomes obvious that there’s no way this can end well for the bank-robbing brothers. But exactly how the police chase will play out remains unpredictable right up to the bitter end. Ambulance might not be a transcendent masterpiece that reshapes the cinematic landscape, but it’s a solidly made edge-of-your-seat action thriller worth seeing on the big screen." -Ben Sherlock, GameRant

Ambulance drives onto the big screen this Friday — April 8.