‘Ambulance’ or — Bay’s Masterpiece?

Colin Edwards
3 min readFeb 6, 2024

There’s a moment near the start of Michael Bay’s ‘Ambulance’ (2022) when a cop quotes to his partner Sean Connery’s line from ‘The Rock’ (1996) about how “winners go home and fuck the prom queen.”

It’s a line of dialogue I’ve always detested as it seems to encapsulate everything crass, macho and distasteful about Bay’s movies, but then the cop’s partner replies with “Well, that’s super aggressive.”

What’s this? Michael Bay openly acknowledging his own films’ issues and flaws? Sure, Bay’ll happily reference his own movies any and every chance he gets for a laugh, even if (or especially if) it means they’re the butt of the joke. But this felt different, as though there was a glimmer of self-awareness and growth under the preening self-deprecation.

And it doesn’t stop there with many of the characters in ‘Ambulance’ coming across as human and sympathetic (i.e. they’re not all total assholes) with machismo held up as a misguided and destructive ideal. Yes, this is still a Michael Bay film we’re dealing with so primarily consists of people shouting, swearing and shooting at each other as explosions go BOOM but his previous patina of ugliness is almost entirely absent.

Yet what’s most surprising about ‘Ambulance’ is that Bay made it during lockdown (because, apparently, he was bored and needed to shoot something), shot it in only 38 days and for the cost of $40 million which is insanely quick and ridiculously cheap, and that fast way of working comes across on the screen as once ‘Ambulance’ gets going it never lets up for a second and the fact Bay’s miniscule budget precludes him from utilising excessive CGI (there’s a couple of brief, yet obvious, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them SFX shots but apart from those everything’s real) it means Bay’s forced to inject the film with energy and momentum purely by the way he moves and uses the camera, and NOBODY knows how to move and use the camera better than Bay when he’s not distracted by robots.

This is best exemplified by the drone footage with Bay hiring the world’s best teenage drone pilots and pushing them to pull-off the most spectacular manoeuvres they’re capable of, whether that’s having the camera flying up the side of a building then nose-diving back down it with a furious velocity or gliding under a cop car that’s jumping over a ramp before then zooming over the bonnet of another.

And again, it’s (nearly) all in camera so looks outstanding, feels exhilarating and has an almost guerrilla immediacy and thrill to it all. Why couldn’t he have been making films this good all along?

‘Ambulance’ isn’t a masterpiece but it’s Bay’s masterpiece, and by quite a few bloody miles, and in terms of genuine excitement and stimulation it blows nearly all recent films that’ve cost over 7 times as much out the water. I suspect there’s an important lesson here.

Take away all his money, take away all his toys and just give the guy a camera and a few weeks shooting and the results are outstanding. It’s the greatest, if inadvertent, Dogme 95 movie ever made.

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Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.