Ambulance review: "Action thriller takes Bayhem to new levels"

Michael Bay's Ambulance
(Image: © Universal)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Shot in just 39 days during the pandemic, Am-Bay-lance is the biggest small film you’ll ever see. Buckle up tight.

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Call it Michael Bay’s version of clapping for the NHS – making, in pandemic times, a crazily overwrought action-thriller that salutes a heroic paramedic who pulls out every stop to keep someone alive in the back of a hurtling stolen ambulance as it’s pursued by the FBI and all of the LAPD in squad cars and choppers.

Taking the same-titled 2005 Danish thriller and supersizing it into a pumped-up, all-in, balls-to-the-wall blockbuster, Ambulance sees brothers Danny and Will Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) rob the LA Federal Bank of $32m in cash. “Do people still rob banks?” asks one character, and you half-expect the answer to be “They do in Michael Bay movies!” given there are actual namechecks for The Rock and Bad Boys.

Anyway, things go inevitably south and a THUNDEROUS running gun battle comprising vertiginously swooping and swirling cameras takes place, until our bros escape in a hijacked ambulance. A shot cop is bleeding out in the back, attended to by "the best paramedic in town", Cam (Eiza Gonzalez). From there, Bay gives us a 90-minute car chase. And though screenwriter Chris Fedak lists The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon and Die Hard as influences, it's The Blue Brothers that often comes to mind given the kamikaze demolition derby that plays out ("That’s a very expensive car chase right now," someone says, knowingly).

Bay, as they say, is a shooter, and there is virtuoso violence here, with his always hyperkinetic stylings maxed out as he makes the most of new technical toys, including drones, lots of drones. His new favorite trick is to nosedive a camera down the side of a skyscraper and into the street-level action – which is brash, flash and thrillingly cool the first couple of times, but not the sixth. You might say Ambulance, like all his movies, needs an editor – but it has three and there’s a smash-cut every 0.2 seconds. It’s not only the dying cop in the back of the ambulance whose heart gets the defibrillator treatment.

Still, if you're a fan of Bayhem, this takes it to new levels. Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal, Abdul-Mateen, and Gonzalez somehow communicate moments of emotion as they rocket and spin and soar and plummet with knuckles whitened and teeth clenched. It’s a bonkers, ballistic, brain-numbing ride.

Ambulance reaches cinemas March 25. For more, check out the most exciting upcoming movies heading to cinemas soon.

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Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.