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Michael Bay's Ambulance Is an Awesome 2022 Action Flick You Might’ve Missed
Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II channel their inner Speed demons in Ambulance.
It’s fair to say that if you liked Speed, you’ll likely get a big, tire-melting kick out of the similarly gnarly hell ride across Los Angeles' urban wasteland in Ambulance. Sure, Michael Bay’s 2022 chase caper has its own story to tell about who’s the cop and who’s the criminal, but in just about every heart-racing way that matters, it’s a ‘roided up evolution of the same can’t-slow-down action premise that fueled Keanu Reeves’ never-stop 1994 blockbuster.
Ambulance (streaming here on Peacock) didn’t exactly set the box office ablaze when it debuted in theaters last year, which is kind of puzzling when you think about its Hollywood bona fides. Bay’s directing (and, for this film, his co-producing) role is typically a moviegoing magnet all on its own, and that’s before you factor in the A-list star power of Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as a pair of adoptive brothers (Danny and Will Sharp, respectively) who can’t stay on the right side of the law. Add the steely composure of Eiza González as a hostage paramedic named Cam who gets taken along for the ride, and this is one Michael Bay movie that simply can’t be faulted for its acting.
Don't Sleep on Michael Bay's Awesome Action Flick, Ambulance
Ambulance's heist setup cuts straight to the chase: Will (Abdul-Mateen) is an ex-soldier trying to fly right as a working-class guy who just can’t catch a financial break. His wife (Moses Ingram) needs a $231,000 chunk of change for cancer surgery, so against his better judgment, he turns to his estranged criminal brother Danny (Gyllenhaal) — a guy who just so happens to be smack in the process of planning an epic $32 million bank hit.
Will reluctantly agrees to round out Danny’s criminal crew to help out on the bank job — after all, his wife’s life depends on it. But of course things go spectacularly wrong, and after a cleverly-scripted series of X-factor mishaps, the pair finds themselves stranded with no getaway options except for an ambulance that Cam — the do-right paramedic — has forced beyond the police perimeter and into the live-fire hot zone, where a downed police officer (Jackson White) lies wounded and bleeding out.
From there, it’s off to the races, as the two brothers tear out in the EMT vehicle with both Cam and the wounded cop stashed aboard as a human insurance policy against any shoot-first heroics from the SWAT team. That kind of strategic negotiating-tactics shielding is mostly Danny’s idea; he’s the sociopathic criminal yang to Will’s more conscientious, nice-guy yin, a moral mismatch that eventually plays a hug role in how the sprawling, multi-agency cat-and-mouse chase plays out.
And what an epic chase it is, with the ensuing rip through L.A.’s inner urban sprawl giving Bay and cinematographer Roberto De Angelis a chance to tap the kind of leveled-up camera tech that simply didn’t exist when Bay was cranking out 1990s action spectacles like The Rock and Armageddon. The growing, on-the-spot bond between Cam and Will might serve as the movie’s emotional anchor, but the insanely ambitious camerawork — complete with drone-zooming hovers that dart in and out of bridge trusses, swoop between skyscrapers, and zero in from bird’s-eye city views to something as tiny as the phone in someone’s hand — provide a kind of visual poetry that only adds to Los Angeles’ movie mythology as a place where thousands of dreams are born (and die) on a moment-by-moment basis.
Like Speed, the movie’s pace can sometimes get too raucous for its own good, with shaky-cam shudder and frenetic action jump-cuts nervously intruding on all the high-stakes human tension inside the hard-charging hospital truck’s cramped confines. When the end finally comes, all those conflicts do resolve in ways that aren’t too tough to predict, though that’s no big sin in a movie about staying on the run. Ambulance, after all, isn’t the kind of flick that’s trying to bait viewers into guessing at a wacky outcome. Instead, it’s content to shoot them out of a cannon, put the police hot on their tail, and let them ride the carnage until the wheels, inevitably, fall off.
Stream Ambulance on Peacock here… and keep those eyes peeled for a bonkers high-speed viaduct detour that even evokes a certain famous semi-truck showdown from James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day.