How Ambulance’s Michael Bay Feels About His Place In Pop Culture And Making Fun Of Himself

Michael Bay has a special brand, and it is distinctive from the style of any other filmmaker in the industry. When you’re watching one of his movies, you know it. The sheen is glossy, camera swirls, the soundscape is booming, and rarely are you ever more than a few minutes from watching a car crash or an explosion. It’s an energy that Bay has maintained in his work since the release of Bad Boys in 1995, and while there has been a great deal of vocal criticism of his unique aesthetic, he understands his place in pop culture and is open to making fun of himself.

I sat down with Michael Bay last week during the Los Angeles press day for his new film Ambulance, and I opened the interview asking about some meta moments in the new thriller when a pair of cops (Jackson White, Cendric Sanders) directly reference both Bad Boys and The Rock. Also thinking about his excellent cameo in Bad Boys For Life, I asked if he is at a point where he has a self-awareness about his career, and he responded in the affirmative:

Yeah – and I can make fun of myself, and I have no problem. Making fun of other people, and... Making a movie has gotta be fun. It's intense, it's a war, but to me I love shooting, and I wanted to do this small movie, Ambulance, because I wanted to do... It wasn't about the action. It was about the study of tension.

That self-awareness does Michael Bay a lot of favors in the making of Ambulance, as I write about in my review of the film. As he notes, the thriller is built for escalating tension, as the entire cinematic experience is basically a bank heist followed by a car chase, with the three principal characters (Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza Gonzalez) trapped together in an emergency vehicle leading the parade.

The special sauce, however, is the traditional, bombastic Michael Bay aesthetic, which spices up the ride with chaos and general extremeness. It has a wildness that only Bay can create, and it’s both gripping and entertaining.

As for the special Michael Bay references that are included in Ambulance, the filmmaker had an explanation that was both fun and sweet. The nods to his past blockbusters are in part his way of showing appreciation to the “younger generation” that love his movies, but he also noted that the characters talking about The Rock is a kind of dedication to Sean Connery, who starred in the beloved hit and passed away when Ambulance was in development. Said Bay,

Because the younger generation can quote my movies now better than me. Bad Boys has sort of become cultish. And we were making fun of Dwayne Johnson, who I know; I've worked with. And I think I put that in the script. Sean had just… Sean Connery had just passed, and so he meant a lot to me, my career.

You’ll have to go see Ambulance to learn the details about the film’s fun Michael Bay references, but you won’t have to wait long to do so. The thriller will be in theaters this Friday, April 8 – and between now and then stay tuned here on CinemaBlend, as I’ll have more from not only my interview with Bay, but also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza Gonzalez.

To learn about all of the films hitting the big screen and streaming for the rest of the year, check out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.