REVIEW: Adrenaline filled ‘Ambulance’ entertains despite speed bumps

Michael Bay tears up Los Angeles in his new action blockbuster, although the stakes are a bit lower compared to his other entries from the last decade.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as Will Sharp in “Ambulance,” a veteran and young father struggling to provide for his family, especially with medical bills mounting. In his desperation, he turns to his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), who runs an auto shop.

It turns out, that isn’t Danny’s only business, though, as the brother is also into heists and has been planning a bank robbery. Will is eventually roped in to the situation, but the robbery turns south fast. Needing to escape, the brothers carjack an ambulance with a wounded officer and an EMT (Eiza Gonzalez) inside.

Those who’ve become weary of Bay’s filmography over the last several years should be happy to know “Ambulance” is a much more toned down action thriller. While it does go big in a lot of places, from bloody surgeries to major explosions, the race-against-the-clock plot featured is more grounded and straightforward.

As a result, it’s easy to enjoy it for what it is, a heist-turned-action movie with a dash of drama. The film has entertainment value and can keep an audience engaged by its developments, at least for a while.

An action movie like this could easily have been trimmed down a bit, and kept under a two hour runtime. Instead, this goes well over, to 2 hours and 16 minutes.

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Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Sure, a viewer is treated to a few more segments of the ambulance being driven around cop cruisers and evading cars. However, you can only watch that so much before it becomes a bit repetitive.

The film is also somewhat clunky in its script. Chris Fedak, who adapted the screenplay from a 2005 Danish film with the same name, doesn’t bring a lot of feature writing experience to the table and it can show at times. The movie feels episodic, and the pacing is off at points.

What really helps “Ambulance” keep an audience invested is its lead trio of performers. Jake Gyllenhaal, who should have an Oscar by now, is top billed in this feature and he definitely does memorable work.

Danny is often sliding from hardened, unhinged criminal to loyal, caring brother, and Gyllenhaal ensures both aspects fit the character. It’s convincing that he means business with his dangerous actions, but a viewer will also believe he is doing this with his brother in mind.

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It’s reminiscent of Ben Foster’s performance in 2016’s “Hell or High Water” for a similar role.

Abdul-Mateen, who appeared in 2020’s “Trial of the Chicago 7,” also turns in a strong performance. The character’s reluctance, desperation and conviction are all brought to life nicely by Abdul-Mateen’s passionate work.

Eiza Gonzalez manages to steal the show from both actors at times, though, with a demanding performance. Cam is under immense pressure and stress, and that’s well portrayed by Gonzalez’s work, as the actress captures the character’s resolve.

The movie has plenty of action to offer audiences, too. This is basically one large car chase and it’s packed with explosions, cars flipping over and gunfire. As previously stated, the ambulance chase can seem a bit repetitive, but there’s enough on screen visually to hold one’s interest.

Bay’s latest film is a fine matinee movie. Despite some shortfalls in the writing, the cast and Bay’s attention to action detail makes this worth watching for fans of the genre. If this thing was just tightened a bit, it could’ve been stronger. 3.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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