Ambulance

So what did I go and see the morning after Sunday’s Oscars, a ceremony that is supposed to celebrate the highest possible art in the cinematic medium?

I went to watch a movie full of bad jokes, cheap action, dumb violence and out of control machismo.

In any other year this wouldn’t have been appropriate yet on this occasion it somehow felt quite fitting.

Normally the Academy Awards is about decorum and respect but frankly this year it was like the Wiki Wiki Wild Wild West out there.

A month ago I trusted friend of mine called me out for my review of Licorice Pizza because I said it was a load of crap. I argued what that expression meant in context and justified my statement, but he was right to berate me for so casually condemning an artists hard work and I have subsequently reconsidered my actions. I want to be a vessel for love.

I’m sorry though, Ambulance is total dreck.

I don’t wish to be mean to director Michael Bay but in this case I would suggest that he started it because he called be an idiot, at least his film treated me like I was one.

The set up of Ambulance is that brothers Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul Mateen II have robbed a bank and in their efforts to get away they steal the titular emergency vehicle. Soon they are being pursued by police like it’s The Blues Brothers but the law enforcement teams won’t take them out because there is a wounded cop in the back and they have to keep him alive at all costs. This would be fine but for the fact that no one seems to care or even notice about all the people, police and civilians alike, who are in the cars being flipped and spun and mashed all over the place as they chase around the LA streets. I mean, come on Michael! Do you really think I’ll be so wowed by the action scenes that this imbecilic logic will escape me?

Said action scenes aren’t even that entertaining. Bay has always been pretty good at orchestrating car chases but here there is just too much and it all gets dull pretty quickly. As a director he has long enjoyed swinging his camera around in big sweeping circles but here he has tried to take this further with the new drone he clearly got for Christmas and it is infuriating. Drone shots can be amazing when they show scenes from different angles but half the time here he’s not really showing you anything apart from the front of a building (top to bottom, very quickly) or a bit of road (at a low level). He seems so interested in what the camera can do that he has forgotten that the whole point is in what it is pointing at and anything he does capture is lost in the frantic editing. This man needs to stand still for a moment and stop drinking the self branded Kool Aid.

Perhaps all of this wouldn’t have mattered so much if the movie had given us great characterisation and a witty scrip like Bay managed with The Rock, but it really doesn’t. The story and the screenplay are both poorly developed and clichéd and the performances earnest but laboured. The efforts to paint the leads as antiheroes doesn’t work either, it’s actually a little pathetic. I didn’t sympathise with either of them, they are both dangerous and selfish criminals and I couldn’t route for them at all. At one point they bring in a gang of very thinly painted bad guys, seemingly so that Yahya and Jake don’t seem so deplorable by comparison but the handling of this is clumsy to the point of, once again, being patronising to the audience. His fans talk excitedly about him bringing the ‘bayhem’ but trying to find the heart of his films is like looking for the feeble in a baystack.

He certainly has his fans though and I don’t wish to be rude about them (I don’t want a slap) but they must be fairly undemanding, at least in the moment. I am sure Ambulance will do well at the box office and lots of people will enjoy it. No doubt it will be many of the same crowd that voted/spammed Army of the Dead to the top of the audience choice list in what was the second worst thing to happen in the Dolby Theatre on Sunday night.

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The Ripley Factor

How nice to be talking about women’s contribution to film rather than the toxic masculinity that has recently eclipsed it. We might not be dealing with Jane Campion and Sian Heder here but the one good thing about this film is that Eiza González gets one of her rare opportunities to act rather than being paraded as a sex object. Her paramedic, also caught up in the back of the van, is capable, strong, brave and human. She manages to end the film unscathed, in the story and in reality, and that is no mean feat. She, unlike some, deserves an award.

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