Ambulance: An Epic Chase That Goes Nowhere (Blu-ray)
It seems safe to say that there's no director out there who catches more flack for making over-the-top action films than Michael Bay. It's true that there are a number of somewhat sub-par entries in the genre throughout his filmography, including a number of "Transformers" films and other duds like "Pearl Harbor," though there are a few that actually pass for fun flicks, including "The Rock," "Armageddon," and "The Island." For his latest, he jumps right back into the genre for the crime drama "Ambulance," which you can no doubt figure will include the traditional "Bayhem" that's he's so well known for. The one big question is whether it will be one of his many duds, or if it will join the very small list of films of his that are actually entertaining.
As the film opens, we learn that veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II ) needs to acquire quite a lot of money for his wife's surgery. In his desperation, he agrees to take part in a major bank robbery with his adoptive brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal). However, the robbery doesn't go as planned, forcing the brothers to commandeer an ambulance, and take a wounded cop (Jackson White) and an EMT (Eiza González) hostage. They soon find themselves in a desperate escape attempt as the LAPD and FBI chase them through the streets of Los Angeles.
At this point, when you put on a Michael Bay flick, you pretty much know exactly what kind of movie you're going to get, but, as mentioned, that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be bad. With the right story and characters behind it, even a big, loud action spectacle can deliver just the kind of fun experience you're looking for. "Ambulance," a remake of a Danish film of the same name, has the start of a semi-interesting plot as we watch an exciting bank robbery take a turn for the worse, before shifting gears to an epic chase, but it's not too long before we discover that there's really not a whole lot to this situation. That is to say, we quickly discover that the central idea of Chris Fedak's screenplay is unfortunately one that's only half-baked.
The idea here was to create a film that was a sort of combo of "Heat" and "Speed," and while it's mostly successful with the former, it's the latter that ends up being the film's major weak point. "Speed," for the most part, has several interesting situations pop up while the scenario plays out, but sadly "Ambulance" stumbles in keeping up its levels of tension and entertainment as the criminals drive around with their hostages on the magically low-traffic streets of Los Angeles. Bay tries to throw in as much spectacle as he can to liven up the situation a little, but all the explosions, gunshots, and swirling drone shots don't do much to help a story that doesn't really have anywhere to go.
There's even an attempt to bring some humanity to it by making a big deal about Will being the "good guy doing a bad thing for a good reason," while also trying to explore the bond between him and his adoptive brother, but it never delves very far, preferring to try to keep up the adrenaline instead of giving the audience something it could actually care about. Again, a lack of substance in story and characters is a somewhat typical Bay trademark, but if these things are going to be brought up, it would've been a better idea to explore them more fully so as to counterbalance the endless, numbing chase.
When all's said and done, there just isn't anything particularly memorable about this latest Bay outing. It was an intriguing idea, but Fedak just didn't know where to take it after the initial set up. It's certainly not one of Bay's worst films. That is to say, you won't be checking your watch every couple of minutes as with the "Transformers" sequels, but nor does it provide a satisfying level of entertainment like we got with some of his much older films, ultimately leaving us with yet another forgettable actioner from the much-maligned director.
"Ambulance" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The image is perfectly sharp throughout, giving you the best possible view of all the "Bayhem" contained within. Likewise, the 2.0 Dolby Atmos soundtrack comes through loud and clear, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in outstanding quality. Overall, Universal has done a wonderful job with this release, ultimately delivering top-notch work in both departments.
Bayhem (6 Minutes): The cast and crew discuss what it was like to work with director Michael Bay.
Pedal to the Metal (10 Minutes): A peak behind the scenes at the making of the film, featuring cast and crew interviews.
Aerial Assault (5 Minutes): A brief featurette that takes a look at the drones used for shooting the film.
Finding Ambulance (6 Minutes): A featurette that explores how the film came together.
Chase Capital of the World (4 Minutes): The cast and crew discuss filming in Los Angeles.
A Tribute to First Responders (7 Minutes): A featurette that discusses how the film is a tribute to EMTs.
Michael Bay's "Ambulance" has the start of an intriguing idea, but sadly stumbles in its attempts to keep up the levels of tension and entertainment that a 2+ hour film requires. Despite many attempts to liven it up with large doses of spectacle, it just can't compensate for a story on a fast track to nowhere, resulting in a rather forgettable action extravaganza.
Available on Blu-ray starting Tuesday.
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