“Ambulance” is a high-speed police chase through the heart of Los Angeles, complete with what you’d expect: intense music, dramatic cinematography and nonstop action.
But the brilliance of the movie, directed by Michael Bay of the “Transformers’ franchise, is it slows down just enough to dive fully into complex characters.
The dialogue, story and acting are strong enough to build a strong emotional bond with the audience and make viewers care about the characters and their story.
In fact, at a theater screening this weekend, some people applauded when the end credits rolled.
This writer knew “Ambulance” was on the right track from the start when it established the characters before jumping into a bank robbery. Then the film turns into an armed clash with the police, the theft of an ambulance as an escape vehicle and a chase complete with police cars and helicopters. But even with all the action (and this film may be too violent for some viewers), “Ambulance” takes the time to give personal background on the characters. The result is a movie that feels very real.
“Ambulance” stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as veteran Will Sharp, who is struggling to find a way to pay his wife Amy’s medical bills. (Amy is played with simple but straightforward effectiveness by Moses Ingram.) Insurance won’t help them, and in desperation, Will turns to his brother, Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Will was adopted by Danny’s father, a thief. Will has worked hard to be a good man, but Danny took a different road, becoming a thief like their dad. Will asks Danny for the money, and Danny is willing to help him, if Will helps Danny and his crew rob $32 million from a downtown Los Angeles bank.
Nothing can go wrong, supposedly; Danny has a plan. And Danny assures Will they won’t have to fire all the big guns they’re bringing.
But of course, something goes wrong. In fact, everything goes wrong, and the robbery becomes a violent clash with police. In the midst of the confusion, Danny and Will escape by stealing an ambulance, and in the back is a paramedic Cam Thompson (Elza Gonzalez), trying to save the life of injured police Officer Zach (Jackson White).
The robbers race from the police, but Danny, who sincerely doesn’t want to see the cop die, does what he can to help Cam while he drives wildly through Los Angeles.
The movie soars, thanks to the writing, direction and the compelling performances by Mr. Abdul-Mateen, Mr. Gyllenhaal and Ms. Rodriguez. Also standing out are Garret Dillahunt as police Capt. Monroe and Keir O’Donnell as FBI agent Anson Clark.
The only flaw in “Ambulance” is that at times the movie is going so fast that it flies past some opportunities for suspense. But overall, “Ambulance” is a ride worth taking.