Michael Bay’s renaissance begins with exciting ambulance trip

In 2014, the fourth season came out Epic rap battle stories featured an episode in which the four most famous directors of all time face each other: after first, Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock joined Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick. In between exposing each other in different ways as poseurs and pseudonyms, the whole group filmed a fifth director: Michael Bay, who inevitably rushed to the climax to declare his supremacy where it really mattered – in fact. “I don’t have that money to blame, I don’t care,” he rap with a hateful smile. “I carry my checks to the bank and sign them with my nuts.”

The satire here is apt. Bay’s $ 6.5 billion box office as a director and producer puts him in the pantheon of commercial filmmakers. His success came despite his critical reputation. Like David Fincher, Bay entered Hollywood through the world of television commercials and MTV, but he never gained a similar reputation as a stylist – probably because his style was so offensive. From the beginning, Fincher’s spots have always deconstructed the semiotic language of advertising, but Bay has always gone on a hard sale, killing his messages right into the viewer’s cerebral cortex. The ubiquitous “Got Milk?” 1993. the company turned a historically innocuous act of selling dairy products into a referendum on consumer masculinity; the slogan was not so much a request as a mockery, the rhetorical equivalent of a guy holding a cardboard to his head and mockingly saying, “Do you feel thirsty? Well … you, punk? ” As for Bay’s music videos, the most concise way to subtly sum up his relationship is to say that he mostly worked with Meat Loaf – the perfect avatar for the director’s steroidal, all-American shamelessness. Handbook A: A moment in the clip “Objects in the rearview mirror can appear closer than they are” when Bay literalizes the elegiac lyrics “They say it crashed and burned” while filming a real plane crash.

That Bay is a master of his own hyperbolic style is now not discussed. Whatever you think of movies Bad boys, Rock, or Armageddon, no doubt they helped create a template for the modern action movie. The same goes for Transformers a series in the field of CGI spectacle. Bay is also, by any definition of the term, a film director with a recognizable visual signature and a consistent set of moral and thematic concerns. They are reduced to, without special order, hot chicks and heavy artillery. Shot in Transformers: Revenge of the Dead Megan Fox, provocatively mounted on the chassis of a motorcycle, is like the synecdoche of the entire Bay Cinema – a smiling, bright, alpha male POV who is both a provocation with me or against me. Either you get out of the worldview, or you get out.

Fox’s subsequent comments about how much she hated working on Bay helped strengthen his public image as an outgrown teenager (though after the #MeToo movement she clarified that he never made any progress) and made giving up his sophomore, reactionary fantasies so much easier. For critics, Bay’s filmmaking was an easy target both aesthetically and ideologically; when Roger Ebert inspected Bad Boys II in 2003, he singled out a scene where Will Smith and Martin Lawrence scold a teenage boy with racial language as an example of “unnecessary cruelty”. “What was [Bay] to think? ” He asked, not very rhetorically. “My [he] so lost touch with human nature that [he] thinks the audience will like this scene?

Chasing a car in the same movie with naked corpses scattered on the highway, like the apotheosis of Bay’s tastelessness – this is the original Coffin Flop– and it is even easier to make fun of a director when he leaves the comfort zone in a blockbuster and tries to be Spielberg. Between the attacks on Kim Jong Il and Michael Moore Team America: World Police, Trey Parker and Matt Stone found time for a whole musical number about as much Pearl Harbor sucked. (“I need you like Ben Affleck needs acting school / he was awful in this movie”). More generally, Team America functions as a collection of Baye clichés, involving the director in his participation in the reduction of the cinematic narrative to a series of explosions, and at the same time yields another pleasure from such pyrotechnics.

But from a certain, skewed perspective, Bay’s films can be reconstructed not only on a technical level, but also as an example of how the director holds on to the increasingly rigid national spirit of the time. In its 2009 review Transformers: Revenge of the Dead, often against the grain Armond White inspected the director’s wreckage staging and called him a “true visionary,” adding that although “Bay’s soul still has advertising porn, it shows the media norm so clearly that it’s ridiculous.” If a comedy about robbery based on reality Pain and profit released in 2013, his neo-Pacarist brutality was perceived by supporters of the so-called school of “vulgar authorism” as proof that the filmmaker was directing his usual demonstration towards social criticism.

Nearly ten years later, the author’s argument against Michael Bay was safely closed. New topics for conversation have less to do with canonization than with marginalization: the idea that the commercial cinema he helped create has bypassed him. Dokudrama 2016 on the theme of Benghazi 13 hours was largely dismissed as fodder right-handed and led to the lowest income in Bay’s career; production of Netflix for $ 150 million 6 Underground (2019) did not act well enough to guarantee continuation. It is in this context that Bay’s new thriller Ambulance sold as a combined return-slash-lapel: a standalone action movie that has no IP and a hard R rating, made for a real studio rather than for a stretch and released to suit the appetizing cinema audience. With the exception of a few story moments featuring a FaceTime chat, the story – about a stolen ambulance that dangerously crossed various Los Angeles highways – could have taken place in the mid-90s; at some point the characters even speak Rock, which is not only in that Bay mentions his 1996 breakthrough hit, but also exhibits a nostalgia that is almost touching in context.

On Twitter, this was noted that the cinematographer, who was once considered one of the riders of the cinematic apocalypse, has endured to such an extent that he is now not only respectable, but in a landscape of predominantly castrated mainstream content is a kind of endearing old-school life force. Ambulance was shot relatively quickly for a modest sum of $ 40 million – an amount that would not have paid the catering budget for Transformers. “I just want to get out and take something off quickly, I’m tired of a locked house,” Bay told his agent in 2020. Ambulance suggests that this time his basic instincts were correct.

The first signs of wit in Ambulance is that it opens with a character on the phone that is on standby – the first and last moment of stagnation in a thriller designed as a continuous thrilling journey. The guy who plays the phone tag is Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Matin II), a war veteran who is beaten up by the military bureaucracy because of his terminally ill wife’s health insurance – probably the closest Bay movie to a politically progressive setting. , while still joining the anti-elite ethos that makes it so enjoyable for the crowd. America Bay is, no less than Norman Rockwell, a nebulous fantasy made up of kind, decent, hard-working people who just want to hug their kids, grind their cars and chase after girls – just more often than not they also end up asking to break into Alcatraz or land a space shuttle on a meteorite. By Doomsday’s directorial standards, Will’s unfortunate adventures in the company of his adopted and largely estranged brother, Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), are a modest thing. Welcoming Will to his body shop with an open concept (filled, as in the film of our current artist, almost indecently shiny vintage cars), Danny, who, incidentally, is also the most famous bank in Los Angeles robber – invites him to take part in One Last Big Score. In case you’re wondering: yes, it will be easy and no one will suffer.

Bay is not a film robbery specialist like Michael Mann, and the scene where Danny and Will’s team breaks into a largely unoccupied office and empties a safe resembling a reef junior university Heat, except that in this case Danny is like a cross between McCauley and Weingra – which means his worst enemy. If things inevitably go wrong, the brothers end up taking an ambulance and taking hostage a wounded police officer along with the steadfast EMT Cam (Ace Gonzalez), who – in an unexpected structural move – is paired with Will at the moral center of the plot. Instead of a girl in trouble, she is a well-thought-out protagonist, and she is the driving force behind the film’s most egregious and effective scenery, which includes an act of amateur operation conducted without equipment at 100 mph – a mixture of Speed and Saw which goes so far into the territory of a crude notion that bursts (literally) from the other side into a sublime farce.

That’s the fun Ambulance, which on one level is almost comically predictable – a film we’ve all seen many times before – but continues to twist good, specific little twists on familiar traits, such as the unexpected appearance of a dog belonging to a LAPD captain chasing a speed chase, or unexplained the band will sing along to the hit Yacht Rock, which is definitely the best of Needle Bay ever Rock deployed Elton John’s Rocket Man. Everything that the film lacks in reliability – whether physical or psychological coherence – it compensates for the pure impulse that pertains to cinematography to the same extent as the vehicles it pursues. The weightless disembodied drone shots, which highlight almost every sequence, are perfect for the kamikaze atmosphere. Bay also gets a great deal of effort from his actors, starting with Gyllenhaal’s savage-eyed villain – getting closer and closer to Dennis Hopper’s territory with each new film – and including the interaction between Matin and Gonzalez, both of whom decided to underplay as partners (and film around them) spiral further and further over the top. It doesn’t matter that the script continues to grind the facets of Will’s supposed moral dilemma, emphasizing his decency, or that the subtext of Blue Lives Matter is so vivid that its visible from space. Doesn’t it matter that the big sentimental emotions in the home feel that they are organized under the director’s equivalent of a gun sight – “Tears”? It doesn’t even matter that the film reaches its peak in the middle and breaks its climax with some unfortunate staging. Importantly, Bay, who is often distracted by his own virtuosity flaunts, moves things; he steers Ambulance through the finish line with one cutlet.

Adam Nyman film critic, teacher and author from Toronto; his book Cohen Brothers: This book really connects movies now available at Abrams.

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