Ambulance (R)

film still from Ambulance

Ambulance (R)

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Bay slo-mo star in Ambulance, a two-hour-and-16-minute version of, like, a 9-1-1 episode.

Or 9-1-1: Lone Star. Or Station 19, which I’ve seen about 12 minutes of but I feel like I pretty much get the show — pretty people do rescues and somebody wears their hair down in a situation during which any normal lady would have secured her hair in at least a ponytail but probably a bun.

Which is to say, even though her very minimalist use of a hair claw clip is a plot point, I couldn’t help spending a lot of this movie thinking about how Los Angeles EMT Cam (Eiza González) really needed someone to give her two scrunchies and a handful of bobby pins if she’s going to be expected to get stuff done.

This movie spends unnecessary time setting up the backstories of Cam and her new partner Scott (Colin Woodell), young police officers Zach (Jackson White) and Mark (Cedric Sanders), police bank robbery division head Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI bank robbery head Anson Clark (Keir O’Donnell). We see everyone mull around their day before they get to the figurative fireworks factory that is the bank robbery that sets off the action in this movie.

Brothers Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) Sharp have a loving but friction-y relationship due to their upbringing and the father who drew them into a life of crime. Will got out, became a decorated Marine and has a wife and a young child. Danny is still engaged in shadiness, though he constantly claims he’s not like their violent father and robbing banks is his job, which he performs with professionalism and without hurting people.

Will’s wife, Amy (Moses Ingram), would like Will to have nothing to do with Danny but she’s also fighting an aggressive cancer and her only hope is a treatment that their insurance won’t cover. Will goes to Danny to ask for a loan to pay for the surgery but instead finds himself at that moment told to suit up to participate in a bank robbery. He reluctantly goes along with what is supposed to be a sure thing, all-set-up robbery with a huge payday.

Naturally, stuff goes wrong.

Zach, who showed up at the bank mainly to flirt with one of the tellers, is taken hostage. The truck meant to transport Danny’s crew post-robbery gets stuck near Mark, who then realizes what’s happened in the bank. The situation quickly becomes a shoot-out, with Mark joined in firing at the robbers by other police officers under the command of Captain Monroe who had been watching the bank and didn’t intervene at first because they wanted to catch the robbers after they left.

Eventually, Danny’s men are struck down, their means of escape is blocked and he and Will are stuck in a parking garage. They decide their only way out is to hijack the ambulance that’s come to rescue Zach, whom Will accidentally shot during a scuffle between Zach and Danny.

Will, Danny, Cam and the severely wounded Zach manage to get away from the scene but are soon being chased across Los Angeles as Cam tries to save Zach and Will and Danny try to figure a way out of their situation.

This movie is at its best when it’s not setting up these characters’ personalities and backstories and just literally cutting to the ambulance chase, all intercut scenes of car crashes and Cam doing battlefield triage. It’s not good but it’s engaging and watchable, sort of in the way you can sometimes eat a fast food fried chicken sandwich and know that you’re eating something “not good,” not even all that tasty, but also still find it momentarily satisfying. The attempts by the movie to make us care about certain characters also feel strangely uneven because it’s Gyllenhaal who is giving the most compelling performance (kind of a good-natured sociopath whom I enjoyed watching even if I didn’t really for a minute care about him) while Cam and Will are the people the movie wants us to empathize with. I found myself character-wise most interested in random police lady Dzaghig (Olivia Stambouliah) and her banter with Monroe, a character who feels like he’s given too big a helping of personality before he’s sort of shrugged off in the movie’s final third.

Despite all of this and the at least 35 unnecessary minutes of padding that help to push this movie past the two-hour mark, Ambulance wasn’t a bad watch. It keeps you right there with the in-the-second action, it has some plot fun with its cops and robbers pursuit and it makes very little sense if you stop to think about any element of it but it all works well enough as you’re watching the chase go from freeway to side street to paved river bed that you feel entertained enough to continue the ride. B-

Rated R for intense violence, bloody images (like, seriously bloody, in-moving-vehicle surgery-type bloody) and language throughout, according to the MPA on Directed by Michael Bay with a screenplay by Chris Fedak (based on a movie called Ambulancen), Ambulance is two hours and 16 minutes long and distributed by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: Ambulance.

Author: Amy Diaz

Amy Diaz is the executive editor and writes about movies and compiles the Kiddie Pool column. Reach her at

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