REVIEW: Ambulance (2022)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal in AMBULANCE — PHOTO: Andrew Cooper / Universal Pictures.

Directed by Michael Bay — Screenplay by Chris Fedak.

At this point, I’m starting to get used to the idea of seeing Jake Gyllenhaal in American remakes of Danish films. In 2009, he appeared in Jim Sheridan’s Brothers, a remake of Susanne Bier’s Brødre. In 2021, he appeared in Antoine Fuqua’s The Guilty, a remake of Gustav Möller’s Den Skyldige. And now, in 2022, he stars in Michael Bay’s Ambulance, a remake of Laurits Munch-Petersen’s Ambulancen. I don’t know what it is that draws him to Danish projects. What I do know is that I think Bay’s remake might be an improvement on the Danish film.

Michael Bay’s American reimagining of the aforementioned Laurits Munch-Petersen film follows Will Sharp (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a Marine and war veteran, who has to ask his criminal adoptive brother, Danny (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), for a helping hand when Will’s wife is in need of expensive experimental surgery. Danny only gives him one option: to take part in a dangerous bank heist. Will reluctantly agrees. During the heist, things start to go wrong when an officer comes by the bank at the wrong moment in time, and what was once a well-planned-out heist goes haywire. In an attempt to escape from the bank and law enforcement, Danny and Will hijack an ambulance and take a paramedic (played by Eiza Gonzalez) hostage. Now the ambulance is their getaway vehicle, but in addition to the hostage, the ambulance also has an injured police officer on board, and it is the very officer that the brothers fired upon in the heat of the moment.

I recently saw, in an interview with Michael Bay, that the director insists that he never read the original Danish script or saw the film, but that he was only briefed on the basic premise and then he collaborated on reworking the story so that it best worked for him. Now, I’m not sure if I actually believe that he didn’t read or see it beforehand (I also think it’s slightly disrespectful to completely disregard the original film), but what I can say is that, even though I’ve only seen the Danish movie once a long time ago, the American Ambulance swears by the essentials and the structure of the first film. What Bay has done to this film, for better or worse, is take the much smaller Danish heist and chase action thriller and then blown it up to Hollywood proportions and standards. And the bombastic over-the-top chase (complete with explosions and gun-fighting) along with Michael Bay’s distinctive music video aesthetic really suits the narrative that the Danes once conjured up, even if some of the humor of the Danish film (if I remember correctly) is lost here (though Bay’s film isn’t unfunny).

Truthfully, no one could’ve made it this American and inflated and still made it work other than Michael Bay has done here. It is basically Grand Theft Auto the movie. There really is great energy to this film with the many drone shots, the kinetic editing, and the gliding or handheld camera. The principal story gets started really early on, and then it barely lets up for the rest of the runtime. In grossly inflating the narrative, he also pulls in a great number of outside perspectives, some of which work whereas others really don’t. This is often down to the dialogue which is at its best in the main plot in the actual ambulance but middling-to-cheap in the subplots that, for some reason, include these direct dialogue references to Bay’s own films.

But everything inside the ambulance really works. Eiza Gonzalez is credible as the paramedic, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II makes for a solid lead struggling with how his life is blowing up all around him, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is unhinged in a way that is really entertaining. Part of me thinks that Gyllenhaal actually saw the Danish film and tried to bring some of the delightful and distinctive over-the-top Thomas Bo Larsen (the Another Round actor who was in the original Danish film) energy to this film (Larsen’s energy and manner of speaking made him a favorite of Danish cinema in his and my home country). Ambulance, Michael Bay’s American remake (or reimagining) of the Danish film Ambulancen, oozes with tension and the inflated Hollywood action really suits the story. It’s one of Michael Bay’s best films.

8 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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