At The Movies: Ambulance is a loud, mildly entertaining ride; Dog is tonally jarring

A still from the film Ambulance featuring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (left) and Jake Gyllenhaal. PHOTO: UIP

Ambulance (NC16)

136 minutes, opens on March 17

3 stars

It is another sunny morning in Los Angeles. Somewhere, a bank heist is happening, but it is hard to see because the camera is darting through the air and the lens flares block everything else.

This must be in Michael Bay world, a magical place where every surface - especially if it is a sweaty male brow or a shiny bit of paramilitary kit - is kissed by a ray of sunset gold, even if the time is 9am.

To be fair, director Bay (crime thriller Bad Boys, 1995; the sciencefiction Transformers franchise, 2007 to 2017) seems to have learnt how to dial down his propensity for making every scene look like a truck commercial aimed at insecure men.

Best of all, there is no comedy, so audiences are spared the cringe of Bay's humour (think rapping Autobot) or the garish train wreck that was Bay's Netflix action thriller 6 Underground (2019).

The plot, like other Bay films, rests on the idea that military veterans, such as William Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), are hyper-competent all-rounders. By that reckoning, Singapore must be overflowing with superheroes.

Abandoned by the American healthcare system, which is letting his wife die for lack of expensive surgery, Sharp turns to adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), a hardcore bank robber, for help. Danny talks the former soldier into joining his crew.

The heist goes awry, forcing the siblings to make their getaway in an ambulance, with paramedic Thompson (Eiza Gonzalez) and a bleeding policeman as hostages.

This adaptation of a low-budget Danish work from 2005 is good-looking - it adds hardware (chase police cars and helicopters) and action (gunfights and vehicular crashes).

But it seems to have forgotten to bring tension and suspense. Despite having two ticking clocks - imminent capture and a dying policeman in the back - this vehicle cannot make its speedometer tick past "sporadically entertaining".

Dog (PG13)

In Dog, former army ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) is an action junkie desperate to be hired as a soldier of fortune. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

101 minutes, opens on March 17

3 stars

This road movie about a former soldier forced to become a canine custodian is directed by two persons - Channing Tatum, who also stars, and Reid Carolin, who penned the screenplay - which could explain the film's jarring tonal shifts.

It flips from sincere drama to goofy comedy, trying to do justice to serious issues of mental health (of the human and animal variety) while keeping the mood light.

Former army ranger Jackson Briggs (Tatum) is an action junkie desperate to be hired as a soldier of fortune, but his record of brain injury, sustained in combat, renders him medically unfit unless he gets a sign-off from his former commander.

The only way to get the signature is to agree to the officer's demand: that Briggs drive former military dog Lulu from an army base in the Northwest to Texas so she can appear at the funeral of her former handler.

Like Briggs, Lulu's body and mind are scarred from years in war zones. Caring for the violent, unpredictable creature will push Briggs to his limits.

Carolin's screenwriting credits include solid performers such as comedy Magic Mike (2012, starring Tatum) and its follow-up, Magic Mike XXL (2015). His sense for relaxed comedic banter, especially for the status-establishing insults that make up masculine speech among veterans, are his strong suit.

That sense of authenticity, however, is undermined by the fairly predictable depiction of Briggs' journey of healing, of accepting that tough guys do cry.

One is aware that the psycho-therapeutic stuff is inevitable in a film like this. One just wishes it did not feel so much like an insurance commercial.

The Bad Guys (PG)

A movie still of The Bad Guys. PHOTO: UIP

100 minutes, opens on March 17, not reviewed

In a world of anthropomorphic animals, a gang of brilliant criminals (voiced by Sam Rockwell, Craig Robinson, Awkwafina and Richard Ayoade, among others) gives up the life of crime. But some suspect that its law-abiding ways are a ruse.

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