When someone hears a knock at their door in the movies, it’s never a Girl Scout with cookies. More likely it’s a madman with a gun. So in Ambulance, when former Marine Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) goes to his adopted brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) for a loan, we know that he won’t just leave with a check. It’s never that simple. For one thing, Danny is a madman with lots of guns. For another, this is a Michael Bay movie. Events happen at breakneck speed, with gratuitous amounts of “Bay-hem.”
Will is immediately swept into Danny’s latest bank robbery. Once Bay hits the accelerator around the 25-minute mark, the film rarely lets off the gas. Much of the movie is shot with drones, racing with, through, and around the erupting chaos. Profanity flies as freely as the bullets and blood. This is not a movie for weak stomachs or sensitive ears.
Unfortunately for Danny’s crew, the bank is being watched by the authorities. The plan goes sideways, Will shoots a rookie cop (Jackson White), and the brothers hijack an ambulance. In the back, Cam Thompson (Eliza Gonzalez) is trying to save the cop’s life. She’s the best paramedic in Los Angeles, but her philosophy is uncaring: pick them up at the scene, drop them off at the hospital, forget all about them.
This time, the trip takes a few unforgettable detours. It changes her.
Pursuing them is the dogged Capt. Monroe (Garret Dillahunt), and FBI Agent Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell). Pulled out of a rough marriage counseling session with his husband, Clark is already under enough stress without having to deal with his old acquaintance Danny in the middle of an L.A. rush-hour car chase.
Through it all, Will is just trying to follow his heart. It seems to be in the right place. After serving his country, the system won’t serve him. He needs money to take care of his wife and baby. He wants to help his brother. He’ll make any sacrifice without hesitation, even giving his life’s blood to the rookie he shot. But in the book of Jeremiah, after reminding us that the heart is deceitful above all things, God says, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jer 17:9,10).
No matter what our hearts tell us is good or justified, God determines the consequences.
Whether Will “gets away with it” is up to the viewer to decide. Arguably, in Hollywood style, he gets it both ways. Like everything else on the screen, the outcome isn’t entirely realistic.
There’s no denying Ambulance is a jolt of audio/visual adrenaline straight to the heart, singing with great direction, performances, and spectacle. Whether or not it’s worth all the violence, gore, profanity, and murky morality is up to the viewer. The siren song of Ambulance will be one many will choose to resist. (Universal Pictures)