Two robbers steal an ambulance after their heist goes awry.
For the majority of director Michael Bay’s film career, he’s been dragged by critics all around. His Transformers films are a large part of that, and if you’ve seen that franchise you’d probably understand why (however I thought the first film was fantastic). At one point and time Bay was my favorite director of all time, but that came to an end with Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (2009). It started to seem as if he was more passionate about the newest technology on screen rather than developing a compelling story with rich characters you could relate to. He has his own unique style especially when it comes to explosions, but that can’t replace the necessary building blocks to make a great film. Now he teams up with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Will Sharp) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Danny Sharp) in his latest crime, action adventure which is a remake of a Danish film.
Danny and Will Sharp are brothers who are in desperate need of money, so they decide to perform a bank heist. They don’t look the same as far as race, so it’s assumed this bond commenced through the legal system. However, it doesn’t matter due to there being no chemistry between the two characters. Bay attempts to illustrate chemistry on screen with flashbacks of them as children, but it’s all wasted away with their awkward back and forth banter later as adults. The two don’t even look comfortable being around each other so it’s not convincing that their union is as strong as they’re suggesting on screen. It’s not all Mateen’s fault in the least though. When he shares screen time with Cam (Eiza González), the paramedic, it’s the only relationship that’s worth investing in. These two are pinned together in a situation that was near out of their control, and you can sympathize with the both of them. After the heist goes awry their only option for escape is high jacking an ambulance with Cam and an injured cop that’s near death already on board. Cam has a realistic view on life as far as her career and what it entails, and it appears she knows how to separate her work from her personal life in a way that will in the end benefit her mental health. Gyllenhall’s character Danny is a laughing joke. He’s a rich millionaire that’s as unstable as a house of cards in a tornado. He has so much money and resources, but unfortunately he doesn’t know how to use or maintain it properly. It would be more convincing that fire is cold than believing he’s able to control the amount of authority he demands on screen. Nothing is believable about his performance or character, and he’s quite annoying.
I thought it would be refreshing to see another Bay film that didn’t have anything to do with transforming robots, but it appears Bay hasn’t learned his lesson. For some reason, he’s completely forgotten how to film a scene with a camera that’s legible to the audience’s senses. The shaky cam aspect was all over the first act of the film, so much that it could make you nauseous. Then to make matters worse he uses a new drone camera technology for certain shots making it even harder to understand the action unfolding on screen. It’s overused and has no real effect other than begging for attention. It’s a great idea with the camera scaling tall buildings doing 360 degree turns in mid-air, but it still fails because the shots aren’t held long enough to make a valuable impact. The scenes are cut too short which in return provides choppy editing.
Michael Bay still knows how to craft some action scenes though. When he’s filming the middle of a firefight between the policeman and bank robbers he’s the king of intensity. Every bullet that hits a surface sounds and feels like it’s the end of the world, and that’s the exact feeling I need during any action movie. The car chase scenes are a delight as well, but after a while it does get a bit repetitive, and if that’s the only aspect your film can offer it’s simply not enough. Not all of the action is great. For some reason, cars are flipping over for no apparent reason when you consider physics, and it’s very noticeable.
I’ve never been a fan of most of Michael Bay’s comedy and that remains the same with this film as well. During serious moments full of tension he cuts away to a side character acting silly about toy flamingos. This type of dialogue is distracting and takes away from the film, and he does it more than once. It’s also a shame that he builds up characters that die randomly with no real closure to their arc. Imagine getting to know a character in a film, and liking them dearly just to have them disappear and never be mentioned again. This is a slight exaggeration of what happened during the film, but it sure does feel like it.
The ending of the film ended up being one of his worst. There was no real happy ending, and the audience Is forced to accept it without any payoff. Especially as a Black man, I see echoes of a repeated system that doesn’t care too much for Black people. It’s an emotion that ran across my chest that couldn’t be ignored.
There’s still a large amount of the film to enjoy if you simply want to be entertained with loud noises, but there are so many missed opportunities for greatness. The action was great during some parts, and all over the place during others. I feel this way because Bay has succeeded in some of his past films in the exact same area he failed in this one. I cared about all of the characters in Armageddon (1998) and the Bad Boys (1996 & 2003) franchise, and in both films there was more plot within the action. Not just explosions and cars flipping for the hell of it. This film had so much potential to be greater than it is, and it’s a shame it’s not. I still have faith in Michael Bay to pull things back together, and hopefully, this was just a series of bad days at the office because he’s capable of delivering much better than he did here.