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Blu-ray Review: Ambulance (Collector’s Edition)

July 21, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Michael Bay’s Ambulance is a refreshingly back-to-basics film from the director, that sees him stepping away from the increasing tedium of the Transformers franchise to offer a fairly straight forward but entertaining chase movie set on the streets of Los Angeles.

The film still features the over the top action and, well, “Bayhem” that the filmmaker’s name is synonymous with, but it’s presented in a more grounded way that at least puts some focus on its human characters.

The film follows Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Danny Sharp (Jack Gyllenhaal), two adopted brothers who steal an ambulance following a horribly botched bank robbery. To complicate matters, there’s an injured cop (Jackson White) and an EMT (Eiza González) riding in the back, who become unwitting hostages in their getaway.

And that’s it. That’s the plot. Bay’s film essentially unfolds as a couple of extended set-pieces that find Will and Danny careening the emergency vehicle through the streets of LA following the initial robbery, as a growing number of cop cars and helicopters follow them in pursuit. And you know what? It kinda delivers exactly what you want from this sort of movie.

The screenplay by Chris Fedak, which was adapted from the 2005 Danish thriller Ambulancen, keeps things fairly simple with its A-to-B plot, while adding enough complications that arise along the way to keep us in suspense. Sure, several of the character beats feel underdeveloped, and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue borders on camp (“it’s cashmere!,” Danny disdainfully proclaims after his sweater gets sullied, and at another point casually references having herpes).

But Ambulance has enough going for it in terms of pure adrenaline to keep us hooked, with the cinematography by Roberto De Angelis (who worked as a camera operator on a couple of Bay’s previous movies) thrillingly capturing the action. The main attraction are the cutting-edge drone shots that allow the camera to swoop around and give us dizzyingly unique vantage points, whether whizzing down the side of buildings or flying under bridges and right beside police cars.

The performances are also generally solid, with the actors doing a good job of keeping us engaged in the film’s basic story. Abdul-Mateen II impresses in his more sympathetic performance as an increasingly desperate veteran with a sick wife (Moses Ingram) and baby at home who are being failed by the medical establishment, while Gyllenhaal has fun chewing up the screen in one of his menacing, anti-hero roles.

There is a bit of a throwback quality to Ambulance that I found mostly appealing (the characters even reference Bay’s 1996 movie The Rock), and it already feels like a watch it on Saturday afternoon when it comes on TV sort of movie. It’s a piece of pure, classic “Bayhem,” but also one that doubles as a pretty solid and well crafted action movie, and you can’t really argue with that.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray contains a selection of six bonus featurettes. A regular DVD and code for a digital copy are also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Bayhem (6 minutes, 14 seconds): Bay talks about doing his version of a “character piece,” while the cast members gush over what it was like working with him.

Pedal to the Metal (9 minutes, 34 seconds): Looks at the challenges of filming in the back of an ambulance, with Falck providing a dozen real ambulances for use in the film, which they expected back in one piece. The cast also offers feedback on Abdul-Mateen II’s driving, and the experience of shooting some scenes on sound stages with the vehicles on rigs.

Aerial Assault (5 minutes, 8 seconds): This featurette focuses on the film’s insane use of FPV (first person video) drones that can fly up to 100 mph, and the prodigious young drone pilots who were brought in to fly them using VR goggles.

Finding Ambulance (5 minutes, 34 seconds): Screenwriter Chris Fedak talks about adapting the original Danish film into what is described as “Heat meets Speed,” with Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II talking about their characters and forming a brotherly bond.

Chase Capital of the World (3 minutes, 58 seconds): A look at the importance of shooting the film on location in Los Angeles.

A Tribute to First Responders (6 minutes, 54 seconds): Cast and crew members talk about the importance of paying tribute to real first responders and portraying them accurately and respectfully, including working closely with them on the film to ensure its authenticity.

Ambulance is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 137 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: June 14th, 2022

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