Hollywood loves remaking films from other countries. In the 2000s and early 2010’s, there were several remakes from the Far East and some of them were very successful. The Ring and The Departed are two great examples of successful remakes. Lately, Hollywood has churned out remakes from Europe and Jake Gyllenhaal has starred in two of them. One was The Guilty (read Ruth’s review) and his latest is another remake of a Danish film of the same name, AMBULANCE. This time he teamed up with director Michael Bay, whose last film was the super expensive and unwatchable 6 UNDERGROUND. A film that was supposed to launch a franchise for the streaming service giant, but the film wasn’t well-received, and Netflix seems to have lost interest in making any more films with Bay.
Military vet Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is struggling financially and he’s trying to set up an experimental treatment for his sick wife. Unfortunately, the treatment is very expensive, and he decided to reconnect with his estranged adopted brother Danny (Gyllenhaal), who can lend him some money. Danny is more than happy to help. In fact, he and his crew are planning to rob a bank that will make them very rich. All Will has to do is join the crew and he’ll be set up for life financially. Reluctantly, Will accepted the offer and joined Danny and his crew of tough guys. Once they arrived to rob the bank, things got complicated when an L.A.P.D. officer Zach (Jackson White) forced his way into the bank lobby to ask out an attractive bank teller. A shootout ensues and all of Danny’s men were killed. Trapped in the bank’s parking ramp, Will and Danny decided to hijack an ambulance and forced EMT Cam (Eiza Gonzalez) to keep Zach alive as they tear through the city, chased by the police, led by Captain Monroe (Garret Dillahunt), and FBI Agent Clark (Keir O’Donnell).
I’ve never seen the original film, so I can’t compare this remake to that version. The screenplay for this American remake is solely credited to Chris Fedak. The story is nothing new or original. He started the film out by showing the whole city of LA and introduced the audience to every character that will be part of the plot. Very similar to Michael Mann’s HEAT. Once the main characters are in the ambulance truck, the story became a SPEED copycat. There were too many silly scenarios, dialogs, and forced humor that didn’t work. I don’t think this is the fault of Fedak, Bay probably told him to write all those silly scenarios into the script, so he can shoot his over-the-top action sequences.
Speaking of Michael Bay, he has a new obsession he wants to share in this film. Using the production to test out the power of drones, this movie is loaded with swooping and plunging shots meant to inject a new level of adrenaline into the movie. If you were to play a drinking game by doing shots every time you see a drone shot, you’ll pass out by the 20-minute mark. I don’t mind drone shots but when it’s overused, it doesn’t look cool or unique. Heck, I’ve used some drone shots for my professional video projects at work but for a narrative film, drone shots shouldn’t be used constantly in almost every scene. Bay also seems to have some limitations when it comes to staging big action sequences. With a reported budget of only $40mil, Bay couldn’t shoot his typical long and big action scenes that we’ve used to seeing from him. This is particularly obvious during the climactic shootout; you can tell that he wanted to create a big finale, but the scene looked rushed and didn’t look as big as he’d hoped.
Performances by the actors were serviceable. Gyllenhaal decided to go all Al Pacino by chewing up each scene to the max. Abdul-Mateen II didn’t have much to do for most of the film. He finally became the “hero” type in the last 30 minutes but by then, it’s kind of too late to make his character redeemable. I think the only character that I care about is Eiza Gonzalez’s. She has a full arch that’s more interesting than the two male leads. Also, this is maybe the first time in a Bay’s film that an attractive female lead wasn’t being used only as a sex object. I guess he’s finally changing his way with the time. The rest of the supporting cast were just typical characters in Bay’s films. The macho men talked tough and there is always a character or two that would be the comic relief.
With a runtime of almost 2 and half hours, this film is way too long. There were several scenes that should’ve been cut, including a very long and stomach-churning surgery scene. The scene served no purpose and was very unrealistic, I know the word “realistic” shouldn’t be used in a Michael Bay’s film. But I had to shake my head when I saw that scene.
This is a film that wants to be about something, particularly when it comes to our broken healthcare system here in the States and police brutality. Bay thinks he’s made some sort of statement here. But by masking the serious issues with shootouts and car chases, it sort of contradicts what he’s trying to say. By the time film ends, you end up asking, “What’s the point of this?”
Have you seen AMBULANCE? What did YOU think?