Plot: What’s it about?
When it comes to the films of Michael Bay, there are a few reactions that go through my mind. On one hand, he’s done very well for himself, establishing a signature style all his own. It’s oft duplicated, but let’s face it – there’s nothing like the original. He’s best-known for the 90’s and 00’s action movies like The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and, of course, the Transformers movies. His style was even lampooned on an episode of Family Guy (“Three Directors”), but to the show’s credit, they also poked fun at Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. Regardless of what you think of Bay’s films, it’s safe to say that you know what you’re getting before the opening credits roll. So with Ambulance, a “heist gone wrong” film that’s yet another tribute to the city of angels, we know what to expect. Or do we?
Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is having trouble paying for his Cancer-striken wife, Amy (Moses Ingram). Out of work and desperate, he turns to his adoptive brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) for assistance. Danny just so happens to be a world-class bank robber like his father. It just so happens that an “easy”, non-violent robbery is about to take place inside a bank and the payday would net millions. All Will has to do is help out and he collects a generous portion of the “earnings.” As we might expect, things don’t go according to plan (do they ever). Danny and Will hijack an ambulance to avoid the police and while racing across Los Angeles, the EMT/hostage, Cam (Eiza Gonzalez) tries to prevent the cop that Will shot from dying. The remainder of the film is, essentially, a giant chase with things blowing up, tires screeching and so forth.
Ambulance isn’t really a bad film. I figured I’d know what to expect (and even prefaced it two paragraphs above), but it appears that Bay is getting a bit restrained in his advancing years. Yes, there are elements of Michael Mann’s Heat to be found, though those are juxtaposed with high-intensity scenes right out of Gone in 60 Seconds (either version). The thing that really got to me was that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. I really enjoy that. I’m willing to bet that not one member of the cast thinks they’ll get an Academy Award nomination for their work. And that’s fine. There’s a scene with a dog with a bit of a…problem. There’s a rendition of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” by the two main characters. Things like that make this 136 minute voyage through L.A. a lot more enjoyable than it could have been. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Video: How’s it look?
As we might expect, Ambulance looks flat out amazing on 4K. Bay’s films might not be works of art, but they’re some of the better-looking action films that I’ve seen and this one is no exception. Universal’s 2.39:1 4K HEVC image sports broad, sweeping camera angles and, for those in the know, has some great shots of Los Angeles. Flesh tones appear natural, though a bit on the “baked” side. Every character in a movie like this has to have a thin layer of sweat at all times. It’s a rule. The HDR also does a nice job off giving the image a nicer, more balanced feel. It’s a great ride and an amazing-looking picture to boot.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Did I mention this is a Michael Bay film? I’ll say that again as with the included Dolby Atmos audio, you’ll know it almost instantly. Things blow up, tires squeal, gunshots are fired and everything in between. It’ll keep your speakers working overtime, to be sure. The LFE really impressed me in a few scenes, but it’s the spacial surround effects that really provided me with a dizzying effect that’s hard to describe. Put it this way, if the point of a great soundtrack is to put the viewer in the middle of the action – this one gets an A+.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Bayhem – Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González and crew discuss what it’s like to work on a Michael Bay set as viewers watch the legend himself masterfully conduct the mayhem.
- Pedal to the Metal – A look at how Michael Bay took his car chase craft to a whole other level for the movie.
- Aerial Assault – Learn how the breath-taking, heart-stopping aerial images in Ambulance were captured.
- Finding Ambulance – Filmmakers and cast discuss what drew them to the project.
- Chase Capital of the World – Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González and crew discuss how LA’s endless miles of highways and sprawling streets became a character in the film and the perfect location for the film.
- A Tribute to First Responders – Jake Gyllenhaal and Eiza González talk about their growing understanding, respect, and gratitude for first responders.
The Bottom Line
For fans of Michael Bay, heist films or movies about L.A. (or all of the above), this one is for you. It’s a bit corny and predictable, but it’s also entertaining and, to me, that’s what it’s all about. The disc sports reference-quality visuals and sound and has a smattering of extras that make for a purchase, if you’re so inclined.