February 18, 2022
Devan Long, Wale, A Martinez, Colin Woodell, Keir O’Donnell, Garret Dillahunt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Jake Gyllenhaal.
Two robbers target a downtown Los Angeles bank. The two robbers abduct an ambulance as the robbery goes wrong.
Larry Cohen’s photographs have never been renowned for their cohesion. As a storyteller, he excels at coming up with unexpected twists and turns for every tale he crafts. He’s a clumsy director who leaves you dissatisfied since he wastes many good opportunities. Major characters and narrative points vanish from his films for no apparent reason. You’re thinking to yourself, “what a shame on such a wonderful tale!” the whole time. To my delight, I discovered that “Ambulance” is very well put together. It’s a clean-cut this time around. Occasionally, the narrative veers off course, but nothing major. Thanks to Gallagher and Roberts’ spirited performances and Red Buttons’ excellent one, it’s entertaining and intriguing. The action scenes and the interiors have also received some attention from the filmmakers. This Cohen film, in contrast to many others, seems to have a budget. The story moves along quickly, and even if the conclusion isn’t anything special, it’s still pleasant. Also, it was well done on the result. I hadn’t watched “The Ambulance” in a while, but it was a treat to see it again. It was also one of the first films I’d seen by director Larry Cohen. Although “The Ambulance” isn’t one of Cohen’s more well-known works, it’s a compelling story of paranoia with a dash of satire. The premise is audaciously ridiculous, and Eric Roberts’ ham-fisted lead performance is plenty of energy (and let’s not forget that mesmerizing mullet while in motion). James Earl Jones also has a tiny but substantial part as a down-and-out detective on the brink. Even as the action moves at breakneck speed (where he understands how to film on location for maximum impact), Cohen’s aggressively tight directing and screenplay keep you one step ahead as you’re dragged along for the hazardous ride with its manufactured thrills. It appears as if Robert’s character is constantly in danger, which makes things excitingly urgent even if they are ridiculously over-the-top with hilarious consequences. To be more specific, I like the nightclub scene, and the irony-laced surprise revealed at the end. The character played by Roberts most certainly did not. The storyline adopts a more contemporary approach to the classic “mad doctor” concept, remaining suspenseful and gloomy in its pursuit of the truth while also attempting to persuade the public of the danger. Roberts portrays Josh Baker, a comic book artist who approaches the ladies he sees on the streets of New York every day and asks them out. After an event in which she collapses with Josh at her side, a strange vintage ambulance arrives and takes her away. As a result, he visits several hospitals without success. Now that he’s discovered more, he’s fleeing for his life, terrified that no one will believe him when he says there’s a phantom ambulance abducting people. To play “the doctor,” Eric Braeden gives a convincingly clinical performance, while Megan Gallagher provides believable support as a police officer we can put our faith in. In addition to Cohen’s regular James Dixon appearing, Red Buttons is amusingly sharp.