Ambulance ★★★★

Okay, now this is more like it, Mike. This blew way past my very middling expectations. I've had a very mixed response to the Michael Bay films that I've seen, but this is almost certainly my favorite. I don't think this plot is airtight, but it's cleaner than I've come to expect from Bay's films, and I'd almost even call it logical until it gets a little melodramatic in the third act. Combine that with the ability to produce 2 non-lagging hours of completely continuous fun, and you've got a genre winner. Reading about the film and looking at the runtime, I was expecting to get action fatigue, but this feels focused and sharp enough to stay interesting. The cast is really solid and provided much better characters than I was expecting for this type of film.

I coincidentally just name-dropped Bay in my last review as an example of someone that I feel doesn't always spend enough time providing a strong character focus before plunging into the action. This film is a great counterexample to that perception that I've held. With a few notable exceptions, many Bay films that I've seen have felt a bit like extended action set pieces with characters used as fleshy meat-props. Even with an exception film like Transformers, which gave Shia tons of lead character-shaping time (okay, so it was mostly just Megan Fox thirsting) before all the robots went ham on eachother... it just isn't that great an overall film anyways, IMO. However, I think Bay struck a surprisingly good balance between his speciality action and character work here. Ambulance immediately gives us two resonant, maybe even sentimental expositional moments for Yahya Abdul-Mateen and the very lovely Eiza González that make their characters feel worth following. Jake Gyllenhaal's very difficult to align character goes on to one-up both of them with a powerhouse performance of manic energy, a microcosm of the film's approach. He's legitimately awesome here. That decision to set up these notable characters first is all this adrenaline-fest really needed to transform from what could have been a mindless heist/chase action experiment into a quite good action film experience. You set up the characters and THEN you start the thrill ride.. in that order, filmmakers. Grab my attention with people, not bullets. This is just night and day from the storytelling disappointment and unmotivated mess that I felt envelope me while trying to watch 6 Underground.

Ambulance is obviously very chaotic and unrelenting in its action, but it still feels surprisingly focused and somehow allows the main characters to breathe a bit with the intense and intimate dialogue throughout so many heart-pounding scenarios. It's just my luck that I tried to roast Bay in my Crank review and then ended up liking this film even more. I'd place this on par with Speed as a truly great and consistently entertaining extended high-speed vehicle thriller. Ambulance might not be one of the greatest films of all time, but it is certainly one of the most exciting, in my book. Touché, Mr. Bay. You've actually truly impressed me this time.

Stray thoughts:

- The scope of this thing is actually kind of incredibly odd, in a good way. It both feels extremely intimate and larger than life, often at the same exact time.

- I want a multiverse spinoff in which Baby Driver Eiza takes Ambulance Eiza hostage. I'd be fine with an entire film of Eizas, honestly. Are you listening, Daniels?

- Christopher Cross? Hell yeah, NOW it's a high octane action film!

- Wait... California Dreaming, now? Maybe a step too far. Rein in all of that hardcore "musical adrenaline" here, Mike!

- I'm not going to drone on about drones like everyone else. Sorry, not sorry.... okay, fine... some of the drone stuff was pretty cool!

- Very mixed feelings about third act character writing and plot devices, but overall, I'm satisfied.

- I'm not sure one film is going to convert me into a Michael Bay enthusiast, but I'm still surprised at how well this worked for me.

Special Agent Cooper liked these reviews