(1½ stars out of 5)
Ambulance (2022) Directed by Michael Bay
Michael Bay doing what Michael Bay knows how to do, boisterous action dynamiting the most unimaginably stupid in a brainless production that carries the same hormonal energy of a teenager who is driven by the rampant adrenaline of the most idiotic, implausible and manly muscle-bound action fantasies. Ambulance is as generic as its title and as unremarkable as Michael Bay’s name, a film that has no shame and takes great pleasure in its blockbuster standards to give us more of the same, with the only distinction being that this time there is not even a brain cell left to rescue.
The master of exaggeration and anti-cinematic entertainment returns to the world of conventional cinema to ridicule his own invention, to make films that are a walking cliché…but with explosives. All kidding aside, Ambulance should not disappoint its audience, from its infuriating beginning it already has a direct and concise plan, it wants to make you vomit and give you an excellent lesson on how not to edit a movie. Openly, brazenly and with irritating intransigence it delivers what it promises, and that is without doubt that you leave with less gray matter than you came in with. Now yes, irony aside, if I am to professionally and seriously rate this film I would be entering into one of the biggest conundrums one has when writing about movies, how the hell am I supposed to rate this?
That disturbing conundrum that only a bombastic director like Michael Bay can give you, is easily answerable from a humorous point of view, between the sardonic and the formally serious; so from that bizarre perspective I must elucidate that this movie is a dizzying copy of every chase movie you’ve ever seen in the 80’s and 90’s. But obviously here we have the added bonus that this is a film directed by none other than the wacky director Michael Bay, who gives the trivialities of action cinema a visionary space to exploit his hyperbolic technicalities, so showy that the word hyperbole shrinks from embarrassment because there is a more objective linguistic bent if we define the name ‘Michael Bay’ as a more accurate synonym for the words excessive and exaggerated.
In this urban journey with two criminals that “oh surprise” the spectacular bank robbery goes wrong, the fate of these two miscreants to whom are delivered in their dramatic qualities the most maudlin pathos, end up in a gnarly chase in the tangled streets of Los Angeles. The whole “meticulous” plan becomes an act of bad luck one after the other until ending in the inevitable. A film where its temporal and spatial units are a linear and continuous event in an ambulance as a stage for this concert of noise, anger with energetic testosterone and a lot of crazy technological action as its “title exclaims”. One could analyze the stupid Bay-esque routine with just the flawed script, however that would be a total waste of time, because in this film the director’s juvenile mentality wants to emphasize that this is a chase movie filmed as never seen before; the topsy-turvy design of the overall shoot is compacted with barbaric visual abnormalities, ranging from an anti-aesthetic use of digital drone footage, and an irreverent, embarrassing and horrendous editing. Disgracefully, it follows the banal rule of Michael Bay’s cinema, it is almost like a commandment in his filmography to make films that have a simultaneity of excesses, narratively and visually.
The unjustifiable electric and spasmodic length of more than two hours is unquestionably its biggest flaw, as I have the kind impression that a slim and compendious duration of less than an hour and a half would have given a result, equally ridiculous, but entertaining at balanced levels. Nonetheless, for this film “less is more” is a sin, for this euphoric production “more is more”, period. The wearisome formation of a narrative that makes use of insipid action acts as a compulsory tool, makes the characters just as inert as the cloying narrative depth it tries to give to the characterization of emotions, worst of all, it is deluded into believing that these dull elements are generating nerve-racking tension, yet the opposite occurs, they engender an antithetical dynamic within the purposes of these repetitive functions and artificialities. The omnipresence of an incessant mobility of bullets, thunderous screams, and vehicular furiousness, instead of intensifying the rebelliousness of the action, ends up making it uncomfortable and even exiguous to obtain a solid and propulsive narrative momentum. Ambulance is Michael Bay’s most Bay-esque film, and consequently one of his most absurd.
Veteran Will Sharp, in a desperate act to get money to cover his wife’s medical debts, turns to the one person he knows he shouldn’t, his stepbrother Danny. Danny offers him a part in a bank robbery, the biggest in the city’s history. Will can’t say no. When their escape attempt goes wrong, the brothers hijack an ambulance with an injured cop and a female paramedic. Now they must flee from a massive security force deployed throughout the city, keep their hostages alive and somehow try not to kill each other.
The staunch defenders of Michael Bay, who are sort of lawyers of the ludicrous, usually tell you with angry expletives: “if you don’t like his movies, it’s because you don’t understand them”. Of course I understand them, I’m even aware that a child who doesn’t even know how to write is able to understand it. To begin with, I don’t find a logic if not pure paradoxes in believing that there is something to grasp in such a basic physiognomy as Michael Bay’s films. It is entertainment cinema, that is irrefutable, but using that phraseology within the field of cinema is quite ambiguous for a thousand reasons that I will now argue in a laconic way. Understanding the word “entertainment” is like comprehending or interpreting the meaning of “boring”, what is entertaining for you is boring for someone else, however, filmologically speaking we could determine if “entertainment” is a term that really works objectively or subjectively. As a test of this hypothesis I will use the film in question of this writing, which definitely has a lot of insubstantial entertainment value, but contradictorily to the true univocity of that word, this action film is boring entertainment, if that makes sense.
The chaotic duo of this film is played by a frenetic Jake Gyllenhaal and a desperate and sympathetic Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, both in the leading roles of this thriller and action plot. Neither of the performances are bad, much less at Michael Bay’s frustrating level of incompetence, and I’d modestly venture to say that both are the only reason I could explain how I endured this deafening and exhausting experience. Both bring solidity to the fragile and manage to aggrandize the messy essence of the film in an intriguing and aggressive way. The insufferable problem with this film I think is generalized in the swirling camera movements and the over-exposure of these. Certainly, the production falters with these experimental forms of drone kineticism, and evidently they elucidate to us that they are a complete disaster as cinematic tools, not only do they give a very animated and accelerated motion but they also ruin the overall structure of a general logic of film space-time.
Personally, most of the time I had no idea where the characters were positioned or where the cars, explosions, bullets, sounds were coming from, it’s too much to explain, but in Bay-esque idioms I’m sure you understand me. Needless to say, this movie has one of the manic essentials of Michael Bay’s action cinema, and that is the perfectly coiffed, sexy, spunky girl. Bay’s perception of the women in his films is quite fanciful, to the point of rivaling what little sense there may be in his orchestra of destruction. The female character throughout the dangerous and hectic chase, not only ends up operating on a wounded cop, or coaxing the criminals, her seductive appearance never adapts to the situation, she perpetually remains with her same countenance no matter how much blood or action has taken place in that ambulance. In Bay’s films women don’t sweat, nor do they look like they’ve removed their make-up, they’re always ready for a good modeling session.
Ambulance reconfirms once again my utter contempt for Michael Bay’s fast-paced, hypertrophic approach to filmmaking, this film has no idea how the proportionality of a cut works, it has no exact language in its editing and overall form. It is objectively a shoddy film; don’t let them tell you otherwise.