“Los Angeles gives one the feeling of the future more strongly than any city I know of. A bad future too, like something out of Fritz Lang’s feeble imagination.” – Henry Miller
Ah, Michael Benjamin Bay – my feelings toward you sway and dip like the ocean in a hurricane. Sometimes, basically the entire Transformersera, I abhor your movies and other times, I genuinely enjoy your aptitude for massive action movies and excessive explosions littered throughout. On the occasion that I need a mindless, easily digestible experience at the movies, your name can be a viable choice to choose from.
The Transformers movies? Hate them more than most movies. Something like 13 Hours? Not only is it a movie I enjoy but have watched numerous times. He has the ability to make some genuinely great blockbuster cinema and other times it feels like the most expensive cash grab in history. And he repeatedly does it. His returns on the movies he makes allow him carte blanche to continue to make whatever the hell he wants and unfortunately that means from time to time we’re getting Transformers or Pain & Gain or 6 Underground. Other times we get the Bad Boys movies or The Island. It’s basically a toss up as to which you’re going to get from movie to movie. This brings us to his latest, Ambulance.
With 13 Hours he admittedly manages a decent amount of dramatic heft that does actually service the story as a whole. What really works in that particular effort is the cast. Even in a movie directed by someone best known for explosions and massive action sequences a cast like the one featured in 13 Hours can usually rise above the more mediocre aspects of something like a typical Michael Bay movie. I think the same applies with Ambulance. It’s a decent enough action flick but the cast, particularly Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, take the material and elevate it into something worth the time taken to invest in such characters going through something so outlandish (and ridiculous).
His last few efforts have felt like exaggerations of his own work. Almost like he’s in on the joke knowing full well how over-the-top his movies can be. And now he’s making us all pay by creating his most Michael Bay movies ever in the history of Michael Bay. The most explosions, the most CGI shots, the most ludicrous plots of his entire career. And now with Ambulance he’s added a new category of truly over-the-top Michael Bay-ness; the cinematography. If I had to say what my biggest issue is with Ambulance it is the camera work. To say it’s downright nauseating at times is a blatant understatement. The drone footage alone must have taken months to capture. Aside from how many shots are aerial, the constant flipping and spinning of the drones makes this something wholly unique, I would argue not in a good way. We are constantly flying over and under buildings and bridges and rarely is the camera not shaking or vibrating. Had he toned this down quite a bit I would have left the movie delightfully entertained. While I still found enjoyment in the overall experience I was also unnecessarily distracted by something that should have been nothing more than an observer for us to watch things unfold. Instead the camera acts as if it’s a member of the police pursuing a couple of bank robbers.
Ambulance is about two brothers estranged through the immoral actions of one of them. One brother’s path has led to a chasm that occasionally bridges only to bring along the problems of someone so caught up in a life of chaos and questionable legality. This particular bridge is created by the honest brother reaching out for financial help from his tumultuous brother who was hoping for this very scenario. Seeking just over $200k, he is offered a job promising millions. As with any scheme promising easy money, the idea is far more palatable than the actual job. As you might have guessed, Ambulance is a tale of easier said than done.
The role of Danny Sharp, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is a role that can be remembered simply by the choice of holding back or flat out going for broke. From the moment he’s on screen it’s obvious Gyllenhaal is going for it full force. And it works. He knows what kind of movie he’s in and knows the best approach is to have fun with it and that emotes all over the screen. He is larger than life and the cause of pandemonium in a movie where chaos is the name of the game.
Ambulance has a lot going for it and a lot holding it back. As with any movie, certain choices were made that makes you question why. While there isn’t necessarily a lot of questionable choices, what few there are cover the entire runtime. These problematic choices are rarely not a distraction. I can find other things to nitpick over but beyond the camera work, what didn’t exactly work for me was more humorous than detrimental. This pertains mostly to certain character choices and the absurdity behind them. But as I’ve made perfectly clear, this is a Michael Bay movie, absurdity is a given.
Rated R For: intense violence, bloody images and language throughout
Runtime: 136 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Garret Dillahunt
Directed By: Michael Bay
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 6.5/ Acting: 8/ Directing: 6/ Visuals: 7
OVERALL: 7 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Take it or leave it.
Check out the trailer below:
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