Today, I did something that I rarely do. I went to the movies (early in the afternoon to avoid all the crowd). Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CINEMA, quality films I mean.
The ones at the international festivals, small arthouse theaters and criterion collection. Not the ones that are meant to be consumed week after week at the box office, and in a month or two, it’s completely forgotten because another one took its place and did basically the exact same plot, but with another cast (hopefully) and maybe a few changes in the script. Hollywood has been basically producing the same 5-10 films over and over again for the past 20 years.
Ok, so I saw the new Michael Bay film, “Ambulance”. The trailer was forced on me while trying to watch a live Duran Duran concert on YouTube (go figure). Said to myself, I would totally go for an action flick. Turn off my brain, and get entertained. So, I did.
These are my thoughts on the movie (will try to avoid specifics as possible):
My initial thought was ‘another Michael Bay film. Ok, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Rock, The Island… The guy knows his shit. Or at least has given me lots of entertainment over my life. He definitely deserves $10 of my money and 2 and a half hours of my time.’ Not that he needs any more box office success, he practically made a gazillion dollars with FIVE TRANSFORMERS MOVIES. I know what I was getting into. Let’s go.
The movie is about a bank robbery gone wrong (what a surprise) with a classic brother bond, doing everything for the family, storyline driving the characters. Cliche’d? Of course! Does it matter? No! Let’s continue.
One guy is a mastermind career bank robber,
the other is a war-time veteran marine hero.
PLOT TWIST! They are brothers (but not any brothers, adoptive brothers. Black and white dudes raised together by ANOTHER PLOT TWIST a mastermind career —psychotic— bank robber.
One wants to do the biggest hit in his career, kinda like a ‘make daddy proud’ thing.
The other wants to pay for his wife’s experimental surgery (Over $200k, laughs in United State’s corrupt healthcare system).
Oh, and there’s also a paramedic woman, possibly one of the best ones in the state, that gets held hostage by them in the AMBULANCE. All that jazz.
I was totally down for an outrageous amount of gunfire, crashes, explosions… Hell, even all kinds of dumb tropes. It’s a Michael Bay film, it’s implied. But I wasn’t prepared for an excessive amount of unnecessary and redundant inverted aerial drone shots INTO NOTHING —I’m not fucking kidding, I stopped counting after 20—, and various climaxes being set-up for 30 minutes, and then being resolved in less than a minute, then moving on to the next scene.
You know what really gets me fucking upset? The movie had a huge amount fucking potential.
– Main villain is a psychopathic genius mastermind played perfectly by Jake Gyllenhaal. It was like a deranged over the top Lou Bloom (from ‘Nightcrawler) with some Joker mixed it. I’m serious, they were times where I really believed him and just wanted him to do something extremely fucked-up, like kill a civilian or give in to sadism. He definitely needs to keep exploring this facet. I see him as a really very abominable and extravagant bad guy character in a better scripted film.
– (Spoiler alert) There was a scene of a bullet-removal surgery done inside an ambulance during the police chase on an LA highway. The paramedic is obviously not qualified to do it, so she Facetimes her doctor ex, and then he Facetimes two more trauma surgeons playing golf. They direct the surgery step-by-step over the call. Suddenly, the guy being operated on wakes up. Man, I tell you, the tension was there. That scene had promise. You just needed a horror-type director to make it shocking and memorable. Instead, we get a punch in the phase, and they just finished the operation in a minute after rupturing the spleen. I was livid. Real wanted a better, no… Wanted the delivery that scene deserved.
– (Spoiler alert) They spend the better part of an hour setting up this HUGE climax that was gonna be the big game changer surprise. The main guy phones in a favor to the LA cartel (yea, whatever, let’s continue), and promises to give him $8 million dollars in exchange for a ‘distraction’. They show scenes of something big being created with a mannequin, a huge mounted artillery gun, explosives… The fucking works. These guys were gonna destroy everything. Then the moment finally arrived, it was a car with a submachine gun and another one that exploded. Casualties 1-2 policemen, including the big boss. Everything stayed the same, it just set up ONE SINGLE THING: The cartel boss’s son got killed afterwards in a very lukewarm running chase and tussle scene ending in a gunshot. That’s it.
– (Spoiler) Main FBI guy knew the Main Villain Bank Robber. That had an academic/personal relationship years back. He fit the cat-mouse game, protagonist-antagonist device perfectly. They only gave him a few minutes of screen time, some dialogue and a very funny introduction scene at couple’s therapy. Again, wasted potential. This was the only person in the whole movie (sans the bother) that could understand and get inside the mind of a psychotic bank robber genius. Pushed to the side and never developed.
There were numerous ways of making this type of film totally compelling. You had everything set up (not to mention a huge fucking budget).
“A bank robbery that went wrong and ended up creating a war zone with the cartel and police in the middle of LA.”
Ended up being:
“Two brothers rob a bank and get chased for hours in an ambulance. One of them is crazy and driven, and the other one is noble and righteous.”
All that set-up, all the conflict, for nothing. Bad guys get killed, policemen win.
On a personal take, “Ambulance” was the longest “copaganda” and “become a paramedic advertisement”, I’ve ever seen.
And to think I almost compared some parts of “Ambulance” to Michael Mann’s masterpiece “Heat”. Shame on me.
“We are not the bad guys.”
Leaving a bleeding man to die in handcuffs while officers are just watching him, right at the entrance of the emergency room.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II killed it. He did the most with what little they gave him.