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Armstrong

Being an EMT is a rough job anywhere, but it probably doesn't get much rougher than being a night shift EMT in Los Angeles. It's probably not much fun in Detroit, either. Since Lauren (Vicky Jeudy) is also a brand-new EMT, it's no surprise that she's in a panic just before she starts her very first shift. To make matters worse, her partner Eddie (Jason Antoon) feels obligated to harass the rookie at every opportunity, including making her listen to a conspiracy theorist (Kevin Pollak) with a late-night radio show -- think Art Bell. Then something not very far away from their ambulance explodes, and they're off and running.

Before they even reach the scene, though, they have a near-collision with a man (Shawn Parsons) in an alley, who declaims for a few moments about something having to be stopped and then collapses. Even half-conscious everything he says sounds like a dramatic speech. The paramedics find dog tags identifying their patient as David Armstrong, another veteran struggling to find a place in the world. They also discover that his right arm is apparently some sort of odd prosthetic -- an insanely strong prosthetic, as Eddie is promptly accidentally injured by it while trying to help.

Without quite knowing how it happened, the EMTs soon find themselves driving wildly through the deserted streets, half Armstrong's hostages and half his partners in crime. He insists that the city, even the entire planet, is in grave danger from a group called the Fifth Sun and their soldiers, the Harbingers, who are working to bring about the end of the world. Certainly these Harbingers have some impressive high-tech weaponry -- just like Armstrong's, in fact -- and are absolutely maniacal in their schemes, so despite thinking he's crazy Lauren and Eddie are forced to admit Armstrong may have a point.

Jeudy gives a compelling performance as the often-overwhelmed Lauren, who's struggling to overcome a past of loss and drug addiction and trying to use her new job as a way to atone for her mistakes. By contrast, Eddie is darkly wry and cynical, a ten-year veteran of the worst L.A. can throw at him, but in many ways he's exactly the mentor Lauren needs. Armstrong's rantings show even the jaded Eddie that there's more scary stuff out there than he imagined, though despite the tech and the wild beliefs of the cult, it's actually a very convincing depiction of how super-gadgets would effect our world.

It's also a great romp of an action hero movie, with decent effects and suspenseful chases. There is sometimes a bit too much of a relaxed atmosphere when there should be a lot more tension and racing against the clock, but I forgive them because they at least made good use of that time to develop the characters. It's dark and realistic without being depressing -- in the words of the mystery radio host, the movie believes in the forces of good just as much as the forces of evil, and in the end all you need is a little bit of hope.

Image: 
The ambulance and Armstrong about to run into each other, literally.

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