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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review--"Ambulance"

Universal Pictures

The new film Ambulance isn’t exactly art, but it’s amazing to watch.

It’s like a dancing bear—on roller skates—and the bear is juggling chain saws—and the chain saws are on fire.

The story begins with all hell breaking loose, as a criminal gang absconds with $16 million from a downtown L.A. bank but is swiftly sucked into a firefight with responding police officers.

A nearby ambulance, staffed by crackerjack EMT Camille “Cam” Thompson (played by Elza Gonzalez), responds to assist a critically-injured cop. But the vehicle is highjacked by the two surviving robbers—career psycho Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his foster black brother Will (played by Yahya Abdul Mateen II) a veteran who is reluctantly roped into the heist because of his wife’s medical bills.

Unfortunately, the brothers were responsible for shooting the wounded cop. But fortunately for the plot, Will is an ace getaway driver.

The rest of the film is largely a high-speed chase through L.A. where the cops in pursuit rack up a succession of spectacular car crashes. Nobody, I guess, talks about laying down a spike strip.

Meanwhile, the brothers wind up working with Cam to keep their policeman hostage alive, to avoid a murder rap—though you’d think all the injured and dead cops they’re leaving in their dust might still be a problem.

The film Pearl Harbor, from 2001, was Michael Bay’s version of a war epic.

This new film looks like Bay’s attempt to re-make the movie Crash—a kaleidoscopic view of all the corners of L.A. life, including Will’s desperate wife, a stone-cold Chicano gangsta, a gay hostage negotiator, and doctors on the golf course who jump on a Zoom call to talk Cam through a bloody 60 mile an hour operation.

The cops tend to engage in smart-ass bickering out of an Eighties movie. And you will definitely find a sprinkling of Tarantino, especially with Gyllenhaal’s character being both menacing and charismatic. A big, comical dog is present, but is not harmed, in accordance with standard Disaster Movie rules.

There’s also characters we like who make tragic mistakes, and the film, in its way, is trying to ask, “Can’t we all just get along?”

The plot is based on a 2005 Danish film where the melodramatic stakes were, apparently, on a smaller scale. The U.S. version is a cable-news spectacular so over the top that you could imagine besieged Ukrainians calling each other and saying, “Wow! Are you watching this?”

Ambulance has strong lead performances and some good intentions mixed with outlandishness. I’m clocking it at three-and-a-half stars out of five.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.