‘We’re not the bad guys, we’re just the guys trying to get home…’
The words “Michael Bay” and “much maligned” often go hand in hand. Deplored by film critics worldwide and memorably lampooned by South Park, Bay is never, ever going to win an Oscar. And yet many of his films are hugely popular, and deservedly so. Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon… I love all of those movies. I’ve even got a soft spot for the first couple of Transformers films. Over 27 years into his directing career (feature films at least, he worked as a music video director first), Bay has finally made a film that critics approve of. Like he will give a shit either way…
Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a bank robber. Not only is he a bank robber, but he’s the son of a legendary bank robber. Danny’s adopted brother Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) finds himself in financial trouble, unable to afford his ailing wife’s escalating medical bills and desperate. Against the face of all logic and reason (this is still a Michael Bay film, after all), Will agrees to help Danny pull off one last score. The heist to end all heists. Elsewhere, Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez), a dedicated and highly competent ambulance driver, somehow gets wrapped up in the whole sorry situation.
Based on the 2005 film Danish Ambulancen, Bay’s latest project is a high-octane thriller with well drawn characters and plenty of car chases and gun fights to keep the purists happy. Chris Fedak’s screenplay only occasionally strays into Bay’s much derided terrible dialogue territory and the action sequences are handled carefully and tastefully – not at all like Bay’s usual modus operandi. It helps that both Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen are great throughout, and also that Gonzalez, an actress I’d never heard of, is similarly effective.
Ambulance deserves all the plaudits it has received. I haven’t seen much of Bay’s recent output after the Transformers sequels descended into ignominy, but viewing this film has made me want to go back and revisit some of his other projects.
Bay’s latest is a heist movie that breaks from convention and delivers a thrill ride that entertains throughout its two hour plus running time.