Sharp Knives is a thriller, Ambulance is inane, Metal Lords short on details

Ambulance profoundly stupid

One of the reasons Phillip Morris was finally held liable for their manufacturing and distribution of cigarettes was that it was proved that they knowingly produced and promoted a product that was harmful to the user. The same argument could be made against Universal Pictures and their new film, Ambulance. Surely, they must know that anyone unfortunate enough to see this astoundingly bad movie would lose an inordinate amount of brain cells by witnessing something so repetitively stupid.

The latest from director Michael Bay is the typical sort of mayhem we've come to expect from the master of senseless mayhem, but far dumber than his past output. I know with five Transformers movies to his credit this is a bold statement, but I stand by it. This endless chase movie finds Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen as bank robbers who commandeer an ambulance after their heist goes sideways. They are able to traipse around Los Angeles for an entire day without running out of gas, running into traffic on the freeway or encountering a police officer smart enough to shoot out their tires or put down a spike strip to stop them. Insulting to the nth degree, this is the sort of film that Netflix and their ilk love. After seeing it, you'll wish you stayed home. In theaters.

Sharp Knives keeps you guessing

If you like your thrillers with plenty of twists and turns, Amazon's All the Old Knives is your cup of tea. Chris Pine and Thawndie Newton play former spies and lovers who are forced to dig up their past when a terrorist that perpetrated a horrific terrorist attack over a decade ago is captured and claims one of their brethren was his inside man in pulling it off. Pine's Henry Pelham has been sent out to interrogate his old comrades in an effort to identify the traitor.

Utilizing many flashbacks, the narrative repeatedly changes whenever we get a fresh account of the past, causing the viewer to reevaluate each time who the mole might be. Jonathan Pryce and Laurence Fishburne are on hand to provide solid relief while the ending, which I doubt you'll see coming, is a poignant, multi-layered twist that sticks with you long after the answer has been found. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

Safe approach makes for rusty Metal

Netflix promised viewers that a new movie would premiere on the streaming channel each week over the course of 2022. With what I've seen so far of their new batch of movies, they're obviously concentrating on quantity over quality. Their latest offering, Metal Lords is the best of a bad bunch, a movie that flirts with quality but settles for mediocrity. The setting is a Portland high school where Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) wants to form a heavy metal band and win the local Battle of the Bands contest. He recruits fellow loner Kevin (Jaeden Martell) to be his drummer but fights the idea of having Emily (Isis Hainsworth), a withdrawn cellist, as their bass player, something his bandmate is insisting on.

This is a trio of interesting characters, people we long to know more about. Screenwriter D.B. Weiss provides thumbnail sketches of each, barely touching on their home lives, which is the key to understanding how teens tick. There are moments – Kevin learning the drums, Emily emerging as a fierce metal cellist – but they don't have the impact they should due to their Weiss and director Peter Sollett's failure to flesh out their backgrounds. That's too bad – I kinda liked these kids. Streaming on Netflix.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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