Ambulance: Michael Bay’s Movie Hit With Critics But Not At The Box Office

Ambulance scored 68% on Rotten Tomatoes but only managed $52 million at the box office.

By Doug Norrie | Published

ambulance movie jake gyllenhaal michael bay yahya abdul-mateen

When one hears that a Michael Bay flick is coming down the pike, it doesn’t take a leap of cinematographic logic to picture what we have in store. There should be expensive explosions, expensive sports cars, sweeping slow-motion sequences, more expensive explosions, wide and colorful shots, thinly veiled plot points disguised as a narrative, and more explosions. That’s just the way of the Michael Bay movie world and wouldn’t you know it, with Bay’s 2022 action-heist-thriller, Ambulance, you get all of that.

Bay is well-known for his big, bloated, and very expensive action films, so you may be surprised to find out that his latest work of stomach-churning (we say that as complimentary as possible) art only came with a $40 million price tag.

This is good news for Universal, who ponied up the funds for the release, as Bay’s latest big-screen bonanza didn’t draw the crowds they were hoping for.


What is sort of surprising about Ambulance is that it really isn’t that bad of a film, considering. Critics found Bay’s exhausting film (when aren’t Bay’s films exhausting) to their liking with a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and audiences, what little there were, also agreed that the film had some merit as they gave it an 88% favorable rating. Would this make Ambulance underrated?

Unfortunately, the decent reviews by both critics and audiences didn’t help Ambulance’s box office numbers. In fact, of the many films Bay has directed (15 total), this was the worst opening weekend of his career. The film bowed on April 8, 2022 in 3,412 movie theaters across the country and cashed in with a mere $8.7 million. Ouch.

This puts Ambulance at the bottom, behind such Bay films like Pain & Gain ($20 million opening weekend) and 13 Hours ($16 million opening weekend). It finished at only $52 million on a $40 million budget.

It’s a shame, though, that audiences didn’t head to the Cineplex to catch the film. If you can suspend disbelief and some story logic, along with some of the more nauseating camera shots and angles Bay employs, the film isn’t a bad watch. It’s probably smart to take some Dramamine before sitting down for this one.

So, with all that said, let’s see how Bay brought this “inexpensive” film to movie theaters.


ambulance movie jake gyllenhaal michael bay yahya abdul-mateen

This Ambulance movie is based on the 2005 Danish film of the same name and the adaptation follows a couple of bank robbers in the wake of a heist gone wrong. One of them, Will Sharp, is an ex-soldier trying to get enough money to pay off his wife’s medical bills, while Danny is a criminal looking for the time-honored last big score.

The bank robbery goes completely off the rails and the two are left on the run through the city, evading a swarm of police officers. Where we get the titular vehicle into the mix is when they hijack an ambulance in order to make their escape. The plot thickens when this particular emergency vehicle is carrying a police officer they shot in the robbery as well as an unsuspecting EMT. 

What ensues is an epic shoot’em up flick that has all of the Michael Bay hallmarks. Sure, it has an excessive amount of bullets and explosions, seemingly destroying an entire city in the wake of one bank job gone wrong, but there appears to be some heart here as well.

The Ambulance movie wants to play on some heartstrings along the way. Check out the action-packed trailer for Michael Bay’s Ambulance movie adaptation. 

Frankly, the Ambulance movie trailer looks pretty spectacular. Sure, we’ve been fooled by first looks before, but it appeared that Michael Bay had grounded some of his industry-leading action pieces into more of a well-rounded film.

Looks can be deceiving on the latter part, but there is almost no denying that this film rings a little different than some of Bay’s more recent work. Truth be told, it does.


ambulance movie jake gyllenhaal michael bay yahya abdul-mateen

The trailer for this Ambulance movie lays out a star-studded cast. Jake Gyllenhaal is in one lead as Danny, a career criminal who has scoped out the score of the century. The promise of $32 million from this bank job is too good to resist and Gyllenhaal is every bit the slick criminal while also coming across as a dude we might be able to root for here.

Michael Bay has done this kind of thing with characters before, sometimes blurring the lines around morality with his leads. 

And then there is Yahya Abdul-Mateen as Will Sharp, a dude just looking for enough cash to make sure he isn’t in medical debt the rest of his life. A somewhat unwitting participant in this score, Sharp’s character gets caught up in the mix to the ‘nth degree.

Abdul-Mateen has seen his star on a meteoric trajectory of late with leads in last summer’s Candyman reboot as well as roles in the Aquaman franchise and of course as Young Morpheus in The Matrix Resurrections. 

Eiza Gonzalez

And what would this Ambulance movie be without an EMT who’s unwittingly become part of this whole affair? That role goes to Eiza Gonzalez plays Cam Thompson. She caught the wrong shift at the wrong time and now is along for the proverbial ride with these two bank robbers.

Undoubtedly, the moral lines are crossed and confused at some point with these three. Other cast members in the Ambulance movie include Garrett Lee Dillahunt and Moses Ingram. You can see them all in the most recent poster for the film.


michael bay

Unlike the 6 Underground which hit Netflix last year or even his previous work in the Transformer franchise, this latest Ambulance movie from Michael Bay does have a bit more of a story and a little more humanity. Bay’s early wins on the big screen included Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon.

Each were huge spectacles with a certain comedic underpinning that appealed to a wide audience. This latest keeps some of the trademark stunts and huge action, while also carrying a considerably more serious tone. Early on, Bay liked what he was seeing from behind the camera lens posting a number of shots of stunts being performed. 

Combining the elements of frenetic and explosive action with just enough story to hold the stunts together can be the hallmark of a good movie for sure. In some ways, this is exactly why we have big screens and popcorn buckets. Michael Bay surely understands this even if some of his more recent offerings have missed the mark. 


Originally, Michael Bay and company were set to release the Ambulance movie on February 18, 2022. But as with many things during these uncertain times, the release date was moved, eventually hitting the big screen on April 8, 2022. For what it’s worth, this had little to do with Ambulance itself and more to do with other movies being shuffled around their timelines.

Ambulance was distributed by Universal Pictures which doesn’t currently have a streaming service attached to the studio. They are in a deal to merge with Amazon Studios, though the finer details on that transaction are still being worked out.

When Ambulance finally hit the big screen, Michael Bay’s film was one of the better ones we’ve seen from the director in some time. The early trailers proved that the final product was even more than we were expecting from a Bay high-octane action flick. Too bad the box office numbers didn’t reflect that.