Formula 51
Grade: D
Year: 2002
Director: Ronny Yu
Writer: Stel Pavlou
Genre: Action/Comedy
Rated: R

Flashback to the 70's: Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson) is ready to begin his life. He has just received his degree in pharmacology and celebrates with a joint while driving on highway after graduation. A cop pulls him over, ands Elmo's future as a chemist is over.

30 years later, Elmo is the world's best and most successful underground drug creator. His newest creation, 'P.O.S. Formula 51' is 51 times stronger than crack and heroin, and more explosive than ecstasy. The movie is about connecting him with possible buyers, but in the hostile territory of Liverpool. It's got a price tag of around $20 million, and he's looking for the highest bidder.

Formula 51 is an awkward blend of comedy and action. If you look at this as an action movie, it is the worst flick to surface this year. If it's a comedy, then you might be able to enjoy it, somewhat. It's a filthy movie. The F-word is used in almost every sentence, and the producers aren't afraid to gross out the audience.

Felix (Robert Carlyle) has been assigned by drug king Leopold Durant (Ricky Tomlinson) to guard Elmo and to make sure he stays alive so their transaction can be complete. Felix is my favorite character, in that he provides the most humor. He's always infuriated, screaming that he hates Yankees, never letting his blood get below the boiling point. His accent is hard to understand when he goes about ranting, but not as bad as some of the others. He is a fanatic of the Liverpool football team, who will be playing the rivalry team of Manchester by the movie's climax. His interest in soccer is the only enjoyable subplot.

Elmo is being hunted by Dakota (Emily Mortimer), a professional sniper hired by the Lizard, (Meat Loaf) who also wants some of the action. Dakota has apparently never been caught, but I can't call her too clever, especially after seeing her dispose her wig in the bushes where anyone can see it in broad daylight. Can't they trace the hairs back to her? Anyway, sometimes she is instructed to kill Elmo, other times to keep him alive, depending on the Lizard's mood. There is a violent scene in which she annihilates everybody except Elmo in a hotel room with her arsenal of weapons. She also doesn't kill Felix. But she does put a bullet through his rear. (He never gets it removed) She has a past with him; one that I won't even bother explaining. The assignment to kill Elmo will eventually bring the three of them together.

So while Elmo is simply trying to sell the recipe of his new drug, a lot happens that is so crazy, I find it hard to decide if I like it or not. Never have so many accidentally deaths occurred in a movie for the purpose of generating laughs. At one point, when Felix is shouting the way he does throughout the entire movie; he screams, "You were supposed to take care of him. Not take care (kill) of him!" There is another scene, (I'm guessing because of the British accents) where miscommunication kills another unlucky victim.

Formula 51 goes nowhere. It's a waste of time, and mostly made of filth and scenes so vile, they should have been left on the cutting room floor. Whenever you see someone stupidly take a drug made by Elmo, director Ronny Yu shows the chemical reaction take place inside the body. One person explodes after drinking a cocktail. Again, comedy or drama?

There's more unexplained. Elmo wears a kilt. When he falls asleep, a female tries to get a good look before the flight attendant covers him with a blanket. He always has a bag of golf clubs hanging over his shoulder, but he doesn't use the clubs for golfing.

Elmo and The Lizard (another one; always angry) are the two Americans in the film. One scene that I especially liked was when Felix treated Elmo to a basket of fish-and-chips. "It's our national dish," Felix explains. He takes one look at the deeply deep-fried fish, and as the car drives away, Elmo chucks it out the window.

Not funny, you say? Then I advise you to stay away from Formula 51 at all costs. It's a British gangster film mess steered by a tasteless Hong Kong director. I think Jackson knew it was going to be horrible, but couldn't refuse the leading role knowing he would have so much fun with it. And it was evident that he did. Once you get past the humor, Formula 51 is just down right awful. Bad Samuel, bad.

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Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati