“Ambulance” is a Michael Bay (“6 Underground”) action-thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“Spider-Man: Far from Home”), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”) and Eiza González (“Baby Driver”). The film follows Will Sharp (Abdul-Mateen), a Marine veteran who urgently needs money to pay for his wife’s experimental surgery. In an act of desperation, Will agrees to help his criminal brother Danny (Gyllenhaal) in a multi-million dollar bank heist, which goes horribly awry and results in a chaotic ambulance car chase.
“Ambulance” is — without a doubt — a ridiculous movie. For one, the premise is a bit stupid. The entire sequence where Danny tries to convince Will to rob a bank with him is totally bizarre. Jake Gyllenhaal is alternately pleading and shouting, and it’s so unhinged that no one with an ounce of sanity would agree to do anything he asks. But this is a movie. We have an EMT (González) sticking her hands in a cop’s guts in the middle of a car chase and using her hair clip to keep his spleen from exploding — not exactly something that happens in real life.
“Ambulance” also spends a good chunk of its runtime making fun of cops. The main guy in charge, Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt, “12 Years a Slave”), munches on Cheetos, brags about his mad police skills and pulls back his men when the car chase gets “too dangerous” — meaning he realized his precious dog was accidentally in one of the police cruisers speeding after the ambulance. Frankly, these incredibly unsubtle jabs produce more eye-rolls than laughs, and I’m not quite sure why they bothered to include them.
The stupid parts of this movie make the overall pacing somewhat odd: “Ambulance” is supposed to be a thriller, but it doesn’t do a great job of maintaining tension due to constantly cutting between really stressful moments and random, ridiculous scenes. The film also borders on the cliché quite a bit, and the plethora of sweeping camera movements — while visually interesting and effective in building tension — can also make viewers a little nauseous.
Despite all these failings, I honestly had an absolute blast watching this film. For one, the action sequences are great. A lot of police cruisers get smashed or exploded, and despite the totally overblown scale of destruction, it’s quite impressive to watch. And even if “Ambulance” is ridiculous, at least it knows it’s ridiculous. From the get-go, Will Sharp is established as a Marine veteran who gave everything for his country, only to be left high and dry, unable to pay his wife’s medical bills. So, naturally, he’s gonna go commit a crime. If you’re thinking this sounds reminiscent of “The Rock” (which was also directed by Michael Bay), I’m right there with you. And so are the screenwriters, apparently: Around 10 minutes into the film, a cop recites the Sean Connery line, “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.” I’m not sure if it’s good taste to quote your own movie, but it was funny.
About halfway through, I just accepted that this movie is absolutely crazy — and honestly, that’s when it got really good. Thinking back on it now, the movie’s absurdity might actually save it from becoming too stressful to enjoy or just straight-up boring. Two hours of driving around in an ambulance could use some extra spice, and the ridiculous scenes littered throughout this film fit the bill quite nicely. For example, towards the end of a seriously intense portion of the movie, Danny and Will share a pair of AirPods and have a little karaoke session to “de-stress” from their desperate predicament. They’re speeding down the highway and start belting “Sailing” by Christopher Cross; it’s such a non sequitur that I was belly laughing for the whole scene.
To finish it off, this movie ends with a surprising dose of heart. Sure, it’s cliché, but Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen’s performances keep it believable, and it even manages to be a bit heartbreaking. Walking out of the theater, I felt delightfully satisfied. So, yes, “Ambulance” is kind of all over the place — but it sure is a good time if you’re in the mood for a solid action-thriller with some absurdity on the side.
Daily Arts Writer Pauline Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.