Like chase scenes and screaming? Then you’ll love ‘Ambulance’



Rated R. At AMC Boston Common, Regal Fenway and suburban theaters.

Grade: C+

The fast and furious “Ambulance” from director Michael Bay of “Transformers” fame has all his favorite toys: cars, trucks, helicopters and automatic weapons galore. Set on the mean streets of Los Angeles, the film, scripted by Chris Fedak (TV’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”) and based on a 2005 Danish film entitled “Ambulancen,” “Ambulance” is what happens when a pair of criminal brothers named Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen III) hijack an ambulance in which a paramedic named Cam Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez) is trying to save the life of a policeman shot by Marine veteran Will. Every law authority in L.A. joins in the chase to capture them.

Prior to the long chase that makes up the bulk of this 2-hour 16-minute effort, we learn that Will’s wife has been sick, that he desperately needs a source of income and that he’s willing to join career criminal Danny in an effort to rob the Federal Bank in downtown L.A. When that goes south in scenes suggesting “Heat” edited by a teenager on speed, the EMS van hijacking occurs. At regular intervals, Gyllenhaal engages in lung-busting screaming matches with Abdul-Mateen. But you just know that the misguided boy-men love one another. Like the “Fast & Furious” films, much of the action lacks credibility. Somehow, the police, F.B.I., sheriff’s department and Lord knows who else are unable to disable the ambulance. No one suggests shooting out the tires, something I inwardly urged them to do 90 minutes into this bloated piece of popcorn film-making. Everything in “Ambulance” takes flight. Most impressive of all are the flying cameras.

As the technician trying to keep a wounded police officer alive, Thompson is depicted as both highly proficient and yet able to miss the fact that the cop has two wounds. Intelligence has never been highly valued in a film from the director of “Armageddon.”

In one bit, a character makes a reference to the 1996 Bay film “The Rock.” Someone else thinks he’s talking about the actor known as the Rock, and we are reminded that he was once a wrestler. It’s a dumb joke. But so is the movie. The endless chase runs out of gas long before the movie does.

While I was impressed with the skill and bravery of the helicopter pilots hovering just above Gyllenhaal in the Los Angeles river, how many crashing police vehicles are enough? Banging toys into each other, launching them off rooftops and blowing them up with cherry bombs are fun for a while. But some grow out of such behavior. Screaming at one another does not mean that you have chemistry, although you may be reminded of O.J.’s 1994 Ford Bronco chase on these same freeways with his Buffalo Bills buddy Al Cowlings at the wheel and O.J. in the back with a gun to his head.

The Mel Gibson jokes do not land, although “Ambulance” has some of the same DNA as Gibson’s “Lethal Weapon” films. The same is true of “Ambulance” and the “Die-Hard” series. One of Danny’s gang members is a “Point Break” surfer jerk (Brendan Miller) wearing flip-flops to a bank robbery. No matter how much blood splatters her, Gonzalez’s lipstick is never less than perfect. Garret Dillahunt (“Army of the Dead”) provides welcome comic relief. One situation suggests the words, “Anesthesia? We don’t need no stinking anesthesia.” Inevitably, we’re all headed to the 101 and 405 Freeway Interchange.

The Danish film cost $2 million to make. That probably would not cover the cost of the ammo in “Ambulance.” Try convincing Bay that bigger is not better.

(“Ambulance” contains extreme violence, profanity and gruesome images.)

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