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Updated: Apr 24

No one has ever accused Michael Bay of subtlety.

But when he gets his testosterone/action scene/popcorn movie mix right, like “Pearl Harbor” or “The Rock”, it can be an intoxicating riot in a theatre. When Bay goes off track, things can really go rotten (any of the last 17 Transformer movies).

His new bank heist thriller AMBULANCE falls somewhere in the middle, tilting heavily toward the bullet splattered latter category.

The terrific Yahya Abdul-Maheen II (Watchmen, US) is much better than the material as Will Sharp, a dedicated US serviceman back in the states, in need of money for his wife’s surgery and finding no support from the VA.

In desperation, he goes to his brother Danny for help. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of our best American actors. To say he’s slumming playing in Bay’s world is an understatement. He clearly has fun playing Danny as a stylish, smart & crazy master bank robber. I was so distracted the whole film wondering why Gyllenhaal would sign up for this crap that I never bought him as the character.

Elza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Hobbs & Shaw) has real screen presence as paramedic Cam Thompson, but it’s not an exaggeration that I guessed every plot point her character would endure after the first twenty minutes.

Bay foreshadows every major plot point with a sledgehammer. Unless you fall asleep, they are pretty hard to miss. And you won’t fall asleep. Lorne Balfe’s music score will make sure of it. It’s so loud for 90% of the film that I felt like I was immersed in a Rocky training montage for over two hours.

Faster than you can say “my eardrums are bleeding”, Will has joined Danny’s central casting bunch of bank robbers, the heist has gone bad, and the streets of LA are filled with 1000 police cars, dozens of helicopters and a million bullets.

Danny and Will end up in the back of an ambulance with Cam and a shot cop.

Oh no, will they have to do surgery in the back of the ambulance at 70 miles an hour?

Will Will’s army training come in handy? Will he drive the ambulance like a superhero, making other cars fly and somersault into firebombs while magically avoiding any shot out tires or roadblocks?

I haven’t seen this many police cars chasing one car since The Blues Brothers, but at least THAT chase was supposed to be funny.

The stunts are great. The photography by Roberto De Angelis in his first gig as DP is crazy. It feels like 10,000 drone shots assembled into a feature length film and not in a bad way. It’s creative as hell, manic and pretty cool on the big screen.

Writer Chris Fedak has created some great TV the past decade, like “Chuck”, “Deception” and “Prodigal Son”, but the big screen transition hasn’t been kind.

The elephant in the room here is that the movie is just really dumb.

• Danny has “committed 38 bank robberies” and yet, he seems to roam LA free, with a massive cover business and lush digs

• Cam shows all the medical talent of a high-profile surgeon but has settled into her job as a paramedic. She doesn’t care about her patients, and then suddenly she does. Her character swing is so fast, she’s all but thrown through a wall

• Los Angeles cops, swat teams and the FBI are all so dim witted that Bay spends more time setting up jokes about one of their dogs in a tired “Turner and Hooch” subplot than any real strategy by the keystone cops

If you want a superb movie about Los Angeles bank heists, watch Michael Mann’s “Heat” again. If you want a great movie about LA bank robberies, check out Gerard Butler’s killer “Den of Thieves”.

If you want to see lots of slow-motion bullets and blood, hear a thousand swooping helicopters fly over your head and watch two very talented actors stranded in a b-movie with a $40 million budget and John Woo/Michael Bay overdone flourishes, AMBULANCE is your ride.

For me, it gets a C, with enough dumb fun and clever camera moves to avoid a D.

Bay is so full of himself now that he has characters reference his movie “The Rock” within the film.

It’s supposed to be meta.


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