"Tell me this is not the plan."
Over the last several decades, Michael Bay has crafted a style. Thanks to commercial successes like Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and the Transformers franchise, the once music video director garnered a reputation for big-budget action films. Ambulance, his newest endeavor, is probably his stupidest. But that doesn't prevent the film from being one hell of a good time.
I say that with the utmost respect and, to a degree, jealousy. A mess of a story that lays so far outside the world of believability that one has to consider it camp, Ambulance struggles to decide what movie it wants to be. Admittedly, none of the choices are great. But more importantly, none are boring either as a jumble of randomness somehow melds into a freakish result that isn't necessarily aspirational but entertaining nonetheless.
Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a decorated war vet who keeps hitting a towering wall when trying to confirm life-saving surgery for his wife. Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal), his brother, represents the opposite end of the "good son" spectrum, opting for a life as a career criminal. Danny prides himself on being less of a psychopath than the pair's now deceased bank-robber dad. (If that's the case, it's not by much.) Will goes to Danny for help with the money needed to bypass the insurance companies. Mere minutes from a historical job that would mark the largest take in LA history, Danny is more than willing to bring his brother in on the operation, especially since he needs one more guy.
Things don't go according to plan. Bass-laden music mounts the internal pressure as a cop, destined to ask a bank teller on a date, returns to the scene, interrupting Danny's plan. Trapped in the underground garage, the brothers overtake an ambulance carrying a bleeding cop.
Cam Thompson (Eliza González) is working to keep the man alive. The best paramedic in the country, Cam's tough exterior hides a lost and lonely internal fray. Her reputation, professionally strong, is cracked due to her inability to connect with her assigned partner. A cliché representation of strong, independent, and successful, her monologues and attitude prove a distraction, even while performing surgery through a video call with a pair of doctors from the fourteenth tee.
As the ambulance navigates the hectic but surprisingly not overly congested streets of Los Angeles, both Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen stay active and intense. Never dropping below an eleven on a ten-point scale, the pair delivers every line and movement with precision and fervor. Sure the plot points are ridiculous, but you wouldn't know it with these two. Surrounded by an excess of tropes, they distribute with purpose, always aware of the film they are creating.
As the chase churns on for over two hours and the brothers break out in more than one physical alteration, Bay works hard to decipher each as good and bad. The drawn-out third act, which hinges on flamingos and a can of green spray paint, is overdone. A request for help from the cartel sees many cops die to potentially save one, and an unintentional dog-napping reminds us that in the world of Michael Bay, the gimmick and explosion will always outshine the story.
When the film finally comes to a close, you can't help but appreciate the spectacle. Ambulance is undeniably flashy and ridiculous. And in a long line of Bay films, it is probably the most Bay one of the bunch.