Bayhem infused into a street level, action thriller
Michael Bay’s action bonafides are not in question. After decades of cultivating his reputation as the maestro of mayhem (aka Bayhem), his latest features continues that trend, but refreshingly differs in scale. Rather than the planetary level disaster of something like Armageddon or the Transformers series, this is a street level affair, but one that lacks little in the way of the filmmakers signature style.
Veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Candyman) is in dire straits. Financially crippled, and driven by desperation, he teams up with his brother Danny(Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch) to make one big payday to solve his problems. Danny, a criminal by trade, plunges the pair into a bank heist, but plans soon fall apart. In making their escape, are forced to hijack an ambulance, but on board they find a wounded cop and paramedic (Eiza González, Baby Driver). Left with little option, the duo try to escape the cops flooding the city in hot pursuit, as they reckon with their actions, and the escalating situation in and around their getaway vehicle.
The film is a propulsive affair, literally. Driven not only by this high speed getaway through LA, but also the characters, bottled up together. Car crashes, shootouts, emergency surgery on the move, and most significantly, brother on brother conflict. Will, who is doing this out of necessity, to pay for his wife’s urgently needed surgery. While Danny, a career criminal, is not driven by such moral needs. Between them, acting as a moral compass is Cam, a paramedic swept along in the chaos. It’s in this we find the quintessential Bayhem.
After the mashed up muddiness of the Transformers series, the more focused, street-level scope of the film is a potent reminder of the energy and havoc that Bay can construct and deliver to our screens. Swift cuts, energetic pacing, intense action, and an impressive, if often truncated, use of drone shots to bring us up close to the action. As well as delivering the action you expect, Bay brings along some of his more egregious trademarks. Some of the editing is choppy, there is a slathering on of puns and grating “comedic” moments, and the adrenaline comes in a big wild burst, rather than anything measured and controlled to play into the more thriller aspects of the narrative. The film refreshingly doesn’t rely on the runaway ambulance gimmick, mining depth out to the situation, but some of the script and character choices are reliant on built in dumb decisions just to keep things rolling along to the next explosion. More relentless than refined, but for sheer entertainment, Bay has you covered.
The Blu-ray showcases vibrant primary colors, a healthy range in the secondary, with inky blacks, and an impressive level of detail and depth of image. There is some minor aliasing in some of the wide shots, but nothing too detrimental. Overall, an impressive and clean transfer. There are several extra features included, but nothing too substantial in content or length:
- Bayhem: The lead trio chat about the experience of working with Bay, and his particular brand of action
- Pedal to the Metal: A rundown of the approaches to shooting the chase sequences, and pivoting between the ambulance interior and exterior
- Aerial Assault: There’s some pretty nifty drone camera work in the film, this offers some insight to the approach, but like the other featurettes, is only a few minutes in length
- Finding Ambulance: Cast and crew talk about the original concept of the film and what drew them to the project
- Chase Capital of the World: A rundown on using Los Angeles to set and shoot the film
- A Tribute to First Responders: Gives a shout out to paramedics and other first responders, and touches on some of the training González received in preparation for the role
- Digital download code
The Bottom Line
Engaging as well as entertaining, Michael Bay’s Ambulance delivers a refreshing slice of action, one that benefits from an immersion in street level stakes. Slick fare, with just the right amount of stupidity to propel things along. While extra features on the release are a little on the slimmer side, the visual presentation here is top notch, showcasing the wanton destruction you’re all here for.
Ambulance is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, & digital now
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