Michael Bay Lets His ‘Ambulance’ Loose on an Unsuspecting Los Angeles

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Ambulance (CREDIT: Andrew Cooper/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Garret Dillahunt, Keir O’Donnell, Jackson White, Olivia Stambouliah, Moses Ingram, Colin Woodell, Cedric Sanders, A Martinez, Wale Folarin, Jesse Garcia, Jose Pablo Cantillo

Director: Michael Bay

Running Time: 136 Minutes

Rating: R for Explosions Coming Out of Guns and Mouths

Release Date: April 8, 2022 (Theaters)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of my instinctive reaction to Ambulance. In short, it distressed me. But I suspect that may have been intentional. Even if it was intentional, it may have gone a little overboard. That’s hardly surprising, as going overboard is Michael Bay’s whole m.o. So of course I knew what I was in for. It’s just a matter of discerning: did we find the sweet spot, or did we tip the scales? And my verdict is: Ambulance is way too much for this viewer to handle, but I appreciate the spectacle.

The premise is tailor-made for a lean, nasty thriller. Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a desperate man. Insurance won’t cover his wife’s surgery, so he turns to his adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal, matching Bay’s maximalism note for note), who’s about to pull off a massive bank heist. It’s supposed to be a simple in-and-out job, but a beat cop (Jackson White) just had to choose this day to ask out the bank teller he has a crush on. So Will and Danny are forced to take him hostage as they commandeer the ambulance of EMT Cam Thompson (Eiza González). If this had all been wrapped up in a cathartic hour and a half, I imagine I would have emerged from the theater reinvigorated and ready to crush everything on my bucket list. But instead, it’s a plodding 136 minutes that left me wondering if I would ever be able to feel like myself ever again.

The whole thing made me sick. Part of that has to do with the lengthy, surprisingly graphic abdominal surgery scene. Let’s just say my physiology is not optimally designed to handle the sight of that much blood. That could have been alleviated if this were a friendlier world, which it just isn’t. There are a few characters who are more or less pure, or at least gold-hearted despite their bad decisions. But every villain is surprisingly brutish, especially Danny, who’s one of the most frightening characters I’ve seen on screen in quite a while. He promises you loyalty and protection, but he’s really just an agent of chaos, much more violent and manipulative than you expect him to be.

But as distressed as I was, it’s hard to call Ambulance a failure. This is basically an extended metaphor for how L.A. traffic can turn your entire day into an Adventure Through Hell. And Bay’s clearly having himself a blast, what with the references to some of his earlier iconic films and the unbound use of drone cinematography. Oh, the drones! Have I mentioned the drones? If you need B-roll from every possible angle, there’s a new way to do it, and Ambulance works best as a how-to guide for pulling it off. Just order a drone, stick a camera on it, inject it with the mechanical equivalent of methamphetamine, and conquer the skies!

Ambulance is Recommended If You Like: Adults playing with their toys, New authority figures pulling up to take over the operation, The L.A. River

Grade: 3 out of 5 Drone Cameras

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Widows’ is the Best Cinematic Crime Saga in Quite Some Time

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CREDIT: Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Lukas Haas, Garret Dillahunt, Molly Kunz, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Director: Steve McQueen

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Rating: R for Professional Criminals at Their Scariest

Release Date: November 16, 2018

Sometimes I am at a loss of what to say about a film because of how powerfully it has affected me. Widows is one of those films. Its immediate effect was similar to that of The Dark Knight, in which I sat stunned, not quite sure what had happened, but certain that I had seen something special. Steve McQueen’s massively sprawling saga about Chicago crime and politics is populated by a ridiculously sterling cast, with at least ten, or maybe fifteen, of them receiving the gift of really juicy material to bite into.

Chief among them, in all fairness, are the titular widows, who are left to clean up the very expensive mess left behind by their recently deceased criminal husbands. Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) are forced to form an uneasy alliance or run the risk of the rest of their livelihoods dissolving away. While each actress is compelling, their characters are not necessarily likable. Do they bear some guilt for benefitting from their husbands’ activity despite not knowing what they were tup to? On the other hand, they are in many ways trapped in a situation with no good options for escape. Their predicament demonstrates the limits of feminism and standing up for a yourself in a world ruled by violence.

Thus far in this review, I have barely touched upon even 10% of this film. It runs just a little over two hours, but it is so stuffed with goodness that I am amazed it is under three hours, yet it is simultaneously so sleek that it feels like it is running for just an hour and a half. There are about six (maybe more) stories running alongside each other and somehow they run seamlessly together. There’s Bryan Tyree Henry as a crime boss trying to break good by running for alderman in a gentrifying neighborhood and Daniel Kaluuya as his brother and terrifying enforcer. His opponent is Colin Farrell, who is struggling with maximal agita as he finds his place as a successor in a long line of Chicago politicians. And we cannot forget Cynthia Erivo as a babysitter/beautician/hustler who also plays a big part in all this. Plus there is plenty more to know about the shadowy machinations of ringleader Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson), Veronica’s husband. And how is there also room for Matt Walsh to show up for one key scene?! McQueen is dynamite with his clear, effective craftsmanship. If you see Widows, you will likely understand everything that happens plot-wise, and you might also just feel compelled to take part in the exhaustive analysis of every frame that is sure to follow in the years to come.

Widows is Recommended If You Like: Heat, The Town, The Dark Knight, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 Aldermen