After two decades of terrible reviews, Michael Bay is confounding critics with Ambulance

Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star in Michael Bay's Ambulance movie
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

The reviews are in for Michael Bay's new action-thriller, Ambulance, and, in a rather shocking turn of events, they're actually pretty good. 

Ambulance marks Bay's first return to theaters since 2017, with his 2019 smash-em-up Six Underground going straight to Netflix

The film, based on the 2005 Danish film of the same name by Laurits Munch-Petersen, follows Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's Will Sharp, a war veteran who desperately needs to raise over $200,000 for his wife's surgery. He reaches out to Jake Gyllenhaal's Danny, his adoptive brother and a life-long criminal who talks him into performing a $32 million bank heist to help raise the money. 

As tends to happen, the robbery goes awry when the pair shoot an LAPD officer, forcing them to go on the run in an ambulance with a paramedic and the dying officer as their hostages.

Starring alongside Gyllenhaal and Abdul-Mateen II are Eiza González, Garret Dillahunt, A Martinez, Keir O'Donnell, Moses Ingram and Wale Folarin.

The movie hits theaters tomorrow (April 8) and the reviews are now in, with the reaction proving surprisingly warm by Bay's standards.

What are reviewers saying?

Thus far, the film has a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That's the second-highest rating of Bay's career and his first time being certified fresh on the platform since 1996. 

Collider's Ross Bonaime called Ambulance "Bay's best film in decades," while The Washington Post Pat Padua said the movie was "wildly entertaining." 

Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt scored the film a B, writing that it "sets the dial at 11, action-wise, and stays there." Empire's John Nugent also praised the movie, adding that it was a reminder that "nobody does bold, brash, bonkers blockbusting quite as thrillingly — or loudly — as Michael Bay."

Ambulance is mostly scoring threes, or, occasionally, the odd four, but, compared to the last 25 years, those numbers are a giant leap forward for the Transformers director.

Is this really a shock? Michael Bay's movies have made billions of dollars...

Indeed they have. As a director, Bay's movies have made over $6.4 billion at the box office, a figure which puts him fourth in the list of the highest-grossing film directors of all time. Only the Russo Brothers, Peter Jackson and the king of the blockbuster, Steven Spielberg, rank higher than he does.

If you include his work as a producer, which has included a behind-the-scenes role in the likes of A Quiet Place, The Purge series and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, Bay's total is closer to the $10 billion Spielberg currently boasts. 

But Bay and critics have never been friends. The high point was his 1996 film, The Rock, which is currently certified at 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, nudging Ambulance out of his top spot. That film also represents the only red tomato on his record, at least as a director. The rest is a sea of green splats. 

The lowest ebbs are 2017's Transformers: The Last Knight, which sits at 15%, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which has 20%, and the Bay Boys sequel, which scored 23%. 

Bay, who is used to spending over $200 million on his movies, has actually made Ambulance on rather modest budget of $40 million. It now remains to be seen whether his box office magic will continue with this new movie, or whether, ironically, this rare critical hit becomes a box office dud...

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…