Chalk up another win for director Michael Bay and another Jake Gyllenhaal that doesn’t steer us wrong. It’s the new action blockbuster Ambulance, which arrived in theaters last month, and is now streaming on Peacock. Part revved-up first responder celebration in the vein of Backdraft, part heist in the lane of the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and part ticking clock race to the end like Unstoppable, it will keep you hanging on for two hours. A certain artistry of its own is required to get this genre just right, and Bay’s pacing, kinetic sense, and thrilling use of camera angles should have you comparing this to your favorite race and chase movies. It doesn’t have the humor of The Blues Brothers, the grit of The French Connection, or the sci-fi of Terminator 2, but it has a compelling two-hour chase through Los Angeles that’s worth your time.
As dramas go, the basic plot is familiar: When a family member is very ill and requires an enormous sum of money for treatment, the ordinarily good guy ex-military father-husband turns to his crime family roots one last time to rob a bank. When the heist goes bad, two brothers in the crime steal an ambulance, including the EMT and a cop one of them shot. And the Bay action meter begins. The movie co-stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Candyman) as Will, the good brother to Gyllenhaal’s crime boy. But just like her performances in Baby Driver, Hobbs & Shaw, and Bloodshot, Eiza González is the real star here as the EMT, who must save the cop, save herself, and, in the show’s best segment, utilize the help of surgeons via Zoom to operate in the ambulance in the middle of the high-speed pursuit.
A few genre favorites get to shine. A Martinez (Longmire, Cowboy Bebop, LA Law) has a supporting role as an East L.A. crime boss, and Garret Dillahunt is a plays-by-his-own rules head of special services who must manage the Stormtrooper-worthy legions of clown forces trying to capture the fugitives on their two-hour ride (and he has a cool dog). Ghosts and Doom Patrol’s Devan Chandler Long is one of the robbers. Plus The Queen’s Gambit and Obi-Wan Kenobi co-star Moses Ingram has a supporting role as Will’s wife, whose illness sets the story into motion.
Yes, at times like its police characters it’s too pumped on its own testosterone. But it works its way to become Wrath of Man done right. It also shares elements with Die Hard, but it’s missing the Bruce Willis character and laughs. It’s not the plot that is the exciting part, but Bay’s use of the action tropes as he adds characters and eliminates characters differently than it’s been done before. He succeeds, and the only question is whether it’s a better thrill ride than his incredible 6 Underground. The pulse-pounding of Ambulance gets the win in the end.
Catch Ambulance now. It’s streaming on Peacock, and available on other digital home media here at Amazon.