May 5, 2022
Most prolific Hollywood directors have a certain aesthetic associated with their craft. You hear Martin Scorsese is coming out with a new film, and your mind immediately jumps to mob hits set to the Rolling Stones; news of Quentin Tarantino’s latest picture conjures up vignettes of gore, witty dialogue, and … women’s feet. And Michael Bay, throughout his career, has accrued a reputation for explosions galore, helicopters, rugged military men, cars flipping through the air like gymnasts, attractive female leads (also like gymnasts), and, as of the last few years, subpar films.
Bay’s last memorable picture was 2016’s 13 Hours, and even that was sandwiched between consecutive Transformers sequels. The endless stream of perfunctory giant alien robot sequels suggests he’s either been having trouble finding actors to star in his movies, or he’s just been having too much fun blowing up cars.
But after announcing his retirement from the Transformers franchise, Bay has a refreshing return to form with his latest film, Ambulance.
There’s a great scene in Frasier in which Niles asks his brother, “What happened to less is more?” To which Frasier replies, “Ah, but if less is more, just think how much more more could be.” Such is the ethos of Michael Bay. In Ambulance, the director overloads your senses with such an abundance of exploding cars, you don’t have a moment to pause and wonder in what conceivable dimension a two-and-a-half-hour-long car chase could take place amid Los Angeles traffic.
But none of that matters. Ambulance is as realistic as most Marvel flicks but has a fraction of the budget and CGI. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Will Sharp, a decorated war hero whose wife needs $200,000 for an experimental operation. Short on funds, desperation and love lead him to his psychopath adoptive brother, Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Surrounded by reams of rare vintage Corvettes and Ferraris, Danny concedes to Will that his successes are all ill-begotten. He’s a bank robber, and he has a new heist planned with an opening on the roster. After manipulating Will into trudging along, Danny finds his get-rich-quick schemes drag the brothers into deeper and deeper trenches as they quickly work their way up to a five-star Grant Theft Auto wanted level.
Bay is pushing 60, but his films still feel as though they’re made by the vivid imagination of a 14-year-old with a $100 million Hollywood budget. Someone introduced Bay to drone cameras for shooting Ambulance, and, presumably befuddled that drones have uses beyond firing Predator missiles, Bay gleefully indulged in the technology. The camera zips and zooms through roads and buildings.
If nothing else, Ambulance is never boring.
It’s a nonstop roller coaster of a film. Once their poorly planned heist falls apart, the brothers hijack an ambulance with a paramedic (Eiza Gonzalez) aboard, as she was trying to save a police officer they’d previously shot. Their leverage in hand, the duo barrels the ambulance down highways — somehow avoiding LA traffic — with Gonzalez performing surgery in the back, all while the entire police fleet from Blues Brothers chases after them.
If you thought this was enough mayhem for one movie, you forgot it’s Michael Bay’s world we’re talking about here. Two hours and thousands of explosions later (the number of explosions, NOM, is actually a metric of time in Michael Bay movies), a completely unrelated Latin American mafia subplot emerges, as Danny ropes in his Colombian connections for a diversion.
Ambulance is a gripping ride with more than enough Bay-isms to keep you entertained for nearly two and a half hours. Though it lingers near the end, in typical Michael Bay fashion, the superfluous bits aren’t just dull, aimless dialogue; they’re lively explosions and shootouts. And who can complain about that?
Originally published at The Washington Examiner