This Michael Bay film, “Ambulance,” is deadly and proudly loud. If you’re going in without earplugs to protect your hearing, you might already be in trouble. This pandemic-filmed action feature left me with a fascination for Jake Gyllenhaal’s thickly lashed eyes and a wish that A Martinez got more screen time. If you love the LAPD, you might want to pass on this one. If you’ll laugh seeing LAPD patrol cars destroyed, this is your vehicle.
Before you get in the driver’s seat and fasten your seatbelts, you need to know that although the movie is based on a Danish comedy written and directed by Lars Andreas Pedersen, the 2005 “Ambulancen,” Bay’s “Ambulance” is not a comedy. The Danish film clocks in at 1 hour and 20 minutes according to IMDb. .
Written by Chris Fedek, “Ambulance” runs almost an hour longer (two hours and 16 minutes). And also adds a few flourishes that are obviously not in the original.
By obvious, I mean, there’s a contrived effort to bring diversity to this film. The Danish film was about brothers, with two White men who looked like they had the same father and mother. In the American version, the brothers are not related by blood. Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) are adoptive brothers, but their father was a career criminal. Will joined the military, serving in in the Middle East. That was how Will escaped the bad influence of his adoptive family, but now he has a wife and child to support. His wife needs major surgery.
Will goes to his brother Danny for a loan, but who has over $200,000 in their back pocket? Certainly not a career criminal despite the cool collection of high end cars in his secret warehouse. Danny does have an offer: a $32 million bank heist in Downtown Los Angeles is going down. Danny pulls his desperate adoptive brother in.
Almost immediately things go wrong and that goes beyond some questionable robbery footwear. An LAPD police officer, Zach (Jackson White), walks in as the robbery is in progress. He wants to ask a cute teller out. He’s been too shy to do it for weeks and now his partner, Officer Mark (Cedric Sanders who is African American), cajoles him into seizing the day on the exact wrong day.
As they make their getaway, Will has what seems to be a moment of PTSD and shoots Zach. That is what will bring in the ambulance driven by EMT Scott (Colin Woodell) and his abrasive partner Cam Thompson (Eiza González). As Officer Mark realizes there’s a bank robbery in progress, the robbers break up. Brothers Danny and Will make their escape attempt together taking Office Zach as a hostage when they carjack the ambulance. Cam desperately attempts to keep Zach alive, even calling an ex-boyfriend doctor who consults with other surgeons with some help from war vet Danny.
So the diversity score here is: Black senior officer (Mark) is concerned for his White partner (Zach). Black adoptive brother (Will) shoots White officer (Mark). Black adoptive brother (Will) begins driving the ambulance, but will trade places with his White adoptive brother (Danny). The White ambulance EMT is sidelined and the Latina EMT is taken hostage. There will be more Latinos in the mix when White brother Danny calls in a favor, bringing in Papi (A Martinez).
Also involved in the chase is LAPD Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell)–both of whom are White. A large dog named Nitro is involved for no real good reason (and who would take such a large dog to work?).
The good thing is that the ambulance doesn’t make its way through Downtown Los Angeles’ Chinatown.
As someone who has worked in Downtown Los Angeles, this action thriller seems more like science fiction-fantasy because most of the action takes place in Downtown Los Angeles. The thought of anyone believing that they could park at will somewhere in the downtown area and synchronize timing is humorous. When the characters talking about the impending rush hour, it was also comical. Rush hour is just a degree of lack of motion, but realistically, pre-pandemic, driving quickly through Downtown Los Angeles is a rare event during the daytime. There are aspects of this film like the choice of one man’s footwear and the dog, that seem to be meant to add humor, but that just adds to the tonal confusion.
Fedek is better known for his TV series scripts for the 2014 “Forever” and the “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” Fedek also created and wrote for the 2007-2012 TV series “Chuck.” Yet what little character development there is in this illogical action thriller, is lost in the swooping, shaking and veering camera angles that are director Bay’s signature style. “Chuck” was charming; “Ambulance” is deadly dull, but at least the diversity dudes don’t die first. And yet, one trope avoided; a dozen other loaded on isn’t exactly a triumph. Cinematographer Roberto De Angelis did make me appreciate Gyllenhaal’s eyelashes.
“Ambulance” drove into theaters 8 April 2022 after making its world premiere in Paris, France on 20 March 2022. Rated R for language, violence and bloody images.