Michael Bay’s Ambulance brings the explosion-filled action he’s known for, and it’s also surprisingly reminiscent of the early Fast & Furious movies.
Warning: SPOILERS below for Ambulance.
Michael Bay’s Ambulance resembles where the Fast & Furious franchise was heading before Dwayne Johnson and specifically, the revamp of Fast Five, leading to the question of whether it would have been better to go that route. Ambulance follows two adoptive brothers, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) as they embark on a harrowing bank heist. Will needs money to pay for life-saving surgery for his wife, Amy (Moses Ingram), leading him to join a $32 million bank heist with his criminal brother, but things don’t go as planned.
With the LAPD on the scene to stop the heist, Officer Zach (Jackson White) is accidentally shot by Will. As he and Danny steal an ambulance to make their getaway, paramedic Cam Thompson (Eiza González) is pulled into their getaway vehicle. She and Will frantically try to treat Zach’s wound as they speed through the streets of Los Angeles. Alongside its speedy story, Ambulance is also unexpectedly close to another car-based action movie series.
The Fast & Furious franchise started out small with The Fast & the Furious, but underwent a significant transformation in 2011’s Fast Five. Introducing Dwayne Johnson as Fast & Furious lawman Luke Hobbs opposite Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and giving the series a complete tonal reboot, the Fast & Furious series took off like never before from Fast Five onward. Ambulance, while as action-packed and vehicularly inclined as the modern Fast Saga, has a lot more in common with the films in the series before Fast Five set it on a new course. Had the Fast & Furious movies stuck with their initial tone, they likely would have ended up greatly resembling the style of Ambulance.
Ambulance Is A Very Fast-Paced Car Chase Action Movie
Few director’s careers trade as much on explosions and non-stop action as that of Michael Bay, and divisive reviews or not, Ambulance adds substantially to that tally. As soon as their planned heist goes south, Danny and Will make a run for it, racing through the streets of Los Angeles with Cam in tow. The bulk of Ambulance follows Danny, Will, and Cam as their ambulance is pursued by the LAPD, and is essentially a continuous car chase as soon as they get rolling.
Ambulance runs a lot deeper than just being a chase movie, though. Danny and Will’s relationship as adoptive brothers tells a heartfelt story of men with wildly different life paths trying to find common ground in their team-up and gradually coming to realize that’s impossible. This isn’t too far off from the early relationship of Dom and Brian (Paul Walker). Cam also gains a great deal of respect for Will, seeing another angle of his life as a soldier in his desperate efforts to get the money he needs to save his wife. Ambulance conveys all of that at a breakneck pace, and it isn’t long into the film before its similarities to the early Fast & Furious movies start to become even more prominent.
How Ambulance Resembles The Original Fast & Furious Movies
Ambulance, like the original Fast & Furious movies, is built upon street crime, heists gone wrong, and tense team-ups between reluctant allies. Like Dom and Brian’s relationship in The Fast & The Furious, Will’s involvement in the story is one that sees him pulled into (or more accurately back into) criminal life. Will and Danny’s heist is also one that, by the nature of the situation itself, seems doomed to failure, similar to Brian choosing not to arrest Dom at the end of The Fast & The Furious. What’s different is that Ambulance is much faster-paced than the original Fast & Furious movies were, and deals with much more immediate and dire stakes.
Naturally, Ambulance being predicated on grounded car chases gives it a Fast & Furious flair. But with Ambulance being set in Los Angeles, the home turf of Dom and his family, Ambulance feels even closer to where the Fast Saga literally started out. Had the Fast Saga not deviated so wildly from its roots as the franchise evolved, later movies might have looked a lot like Bay’s Ambulance. While the question of what that would’ve looked like is an interesting one, an equally valid one is whether remaining so grounded would’ve been smart for the Fast & Furious franchise.
Would The Fast Saga Have Been Better With The Style Of Ambulance?
Ambulance is very much a singular story that makes no effort to set up any kind of continuation. In the ending of Ambulance, Will and Danny’s ambulance is finally cornered by the LAPD and Danny takes Cam hostage in a last desperate attempt of suicidal vengeance when it seems Will has died. Will comes to and shoots and kills Danny, while Cam slips some of the heist money to Amy. Ambulance does everything it has to and then some as a Bayhem-filled popcorn movie, but its standalone nature means the Fast & Furious franchise would have been drastically altered had it followed the same approach with Fast Five.
Fast Five in the style of Ambulance would’ve almost certainly marked the end of the series. Since taking off with the fifth movie, the appeal of the Fast Saga has been in its consistently ridiculous elevation, to the point that the impending absurdity of Fast & Furious 10 is already being theorized about by audiences. The Fast & Furious movies had been fairly successful but still a mid-tier action movie series before Fast Five. Since that film’s release, there’s genuinely been nothing else like the Fast Saga since the beginning of the the Fast & Furious 2.0 era. With that being where the series found its greatest success and most lasting legacy, the transition taken in Fast Five was a much better call than an Ambulance-esque last stand for Dominic Toretto.
Ambulance does what works best for the one-off high-stakes heist story it’s telling, and does its job very efficiently as Michael Bay’s best movie in almost a decade. In the end, the Fast Saga did the same with the series’ longer-running tale making it into one of the biggest tentpoles around. Forsaking the grounded template of Ambulance and its earlier movies for the craziness it’s come to embrace was the right call for the Fast & Furious franchise. Nonetheless, Ambulance‘s numerous similarities to what the Fast & Furious series used to make the opposite scenario a fascinating one to ponder.
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