Better get those migraine tablets out of the cupboard again as it’s time for another assault on the senses and everything in between from Michael Bay, the curator of Bayhem. Yes, your favourite auteur of action cinema is back with another vertigo-inducing, bombastic, noisy and unique dose of madness under his watchful, intense eye, this time taking us on a rollercoaster ride through the sweaty, distinct streets of Los Angeles (AmbuLAnce, get it?) as a group of robbers (led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) see their plot to turn over a bank go array and are forced to seek refuge and escape in Eiza Gonzalez‘s ambulance.
This will require you to strap in and, ostensibly, follow the rule of Dodgeball set out by the great Patches O’Hoolihan – dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge. You won’t need 4DX to assault your senses this time: just sit back and enjoy the ride.
While some people ask for toys, jumpers, video games, films and scented candles for Christmas, Michael Bay clearly asked the big guy in the red suit and bushy white beard for one thing and one thing only: the best drone kit money can buy. And by golly, does he get his money’s worth from his new toys: from plummeting down the monolithic structures that surround the great city, diving through the smallest cracks in walls, looping alongside cars as they put pedal to the metal chasing after the titular van to spiralling around helicopters both at low and high altitudes, a new avenue for Bay to get his intense hands on is used to the fullest.
I don’t suffer from motion sickness nor car sickness but my goodness did I feel like I did as I left the cinema, lightheaded and bereft of words to describe what I had just witnessed but feeling like Bay had just come up and shook me stupid for two hours. For a while, strangely, this combined with his usual array of frivolities and exhibition, was actually mighty fun but then, as ever, it went on and on and on past the point of overkill and into WTF world. Maybe even beyond that.
You can’t argue about Bay’s unique vision, though, and for better or worse nobody makes films like him but the director has believed his own hype for a long time, so much that his previous film – the preposterous and plain awful 6 Underground which found a home on Netflix – was him completely off the leash and that doesn’t really work. Ambulance, a remake of a 2005 Danish film, is better but not by much: there are some sensational moments in the opening half of the film but, by stretching the original film out even more, it loses much of its drama and instead substitutes it for lousy college laughs, questionable gender politics and absurd plotting.
Chris Fedak‘s script is poorly balanced and poorly constructed, resuscitated enough by Gyllenhaal‘s off-kilter, testosterone-pumped performance, Abdul-Mateen II’s quiet heartbreak and Rodriguez‘s charm (though her character is most criminally undercooked), the trio working well enough to keep us entertained if never wholly invested in them. But this is Bay’s playhouse and, for better or worse, he knows what he wants and how to get it. It’s just a little ridiculous that a film about first responders and ambulance heroes spends most of its time treating them with such poor regard.
Action, Thriller | 2022 | Universal Pictures | Theatrical | Dir: Michael Bay | Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza Gonzalez