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American master chemist Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson) has designed a superdrug from legal ingredients called P.O.S. 51 - a party concoction guaranteed to take users to "the 51st state". McElroy's boss The Lizard (Meatloaf Aday) plans to sell P.O.S. 51 to an international drug cartel but McElroy has other plans. Believing he has eliminated The Lizard in a chemical fire, he heads to Liverpool, England, where he intends to make a $20 million sale to crime kingpin Durant (Ricky Tomlinson). His plans go awry with the The Lizardís survival, dispatching hit lady Dakota (Emily Mortimer) to even the score. With Durant's unhinged offsider Felix (Robert Carlyle) for company, McElroy attempts to survive long enough to make the deal of a lifetime.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Two years after it was made and a year after it crawled out onto American cinema screens, Formula 51 finally drags its rather sorry carcass into Australian movie houses. But for the hyperactive mugging of a cast far too good to be appearing in such rubbish, this sub-Tarantino crime thriller would have almost nothing going for it. What it does have is the sight of Samuel L. Jackson parading around Liverpool in a kilt and carrying a bag of golf clubs. Why? No reason at all - it even says so on a title card just before the end credits and that just about sums up the lack of imagination and degree of discipline at work here. As the star and executive producer of this turkey Jackson has no-one to blame but himself for the serious damage this does to his reputation as the Mister Cool of cinema. Formula 51 is a sloppy, fourth-rate piece of gutter trash but at least it's brief (89 minutes) and the cast perform as if they're under the influence of the wonder drug Elmo McElroy (Jackson) is peddling. Robert Carlyle goofs off shamelessly as the Yank-hating henchman Felix DeSouza and Mike Leigh stalwart Ricky Tomlinson isn't afraid to tarnish his reputation as a crime bigwig whose severe case of haemorrhoids requires the strategic placement of a whoopee cushion every time he sits down. The fun continues with Rhys Ifans as an arms dealer who (inevitably in a film like this) is trying to find inner peace with the assistance of a yoga master and Meatloaf ("hamloaf", more like it) chewing up any scenery not bolted down as McElroy's unhappy ex-boss. 

Director Ronny Yu and his players look like they're making this up as they go along and grab at whatever passes by to add colour and humour to the ramshackle farce. The results are mostly grotesque, particularly the fate of a skinhead gang who gobble up Elmo's killer laxatives in the belief the little blue pills contain the magic formula. If you want to see the extremely explicit results of this practical joke, hurry and buy your ticket. The finale staged in an executive box at Liverpool soccer stadium is almost as sickening. 

There are some scattered laughs amid the shootouts and nonstop use of the f-word in former bottle shop clerk Stel Pavlou's script. I laughed when Rhys Ifans commented "I'm getting on my own nerves" and when Felix's mum Shirley (Anne Keaveny) greets her son's former girlfriend Dakota (Emily Mortimer) with "well, shit in a bag and punch it", but there's not much else here to smile at. Still, as half-baked and clumsy as it is, this still rates a very cautious recommendation if you happen to be in the mood for the cinematic equivalent of overcooked junk food that tastes good once a year. Back to the kilt and golf clubs. It turns out that golf is Samuel L. Jackson's passion and for that reason alone they're part of the character. As for the kilt, Jackson says "it's been an exciting adventure wearing it. It's an attitude thing". Can he hear himself spouting such inanities? Not cool Mr. Jackson, not cool at all.

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(USA / Canada / UK)

CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Nigel Whitmey, Robert Jezek, Emily Mortimer, Meat Loaf, Jake Abraham, Mac McDonal, Aaron Swartz, David Webber, Michael J. Reynolds, Sonny Muslim, Barbara Barnes, Junix Nocian, Robert Carlyle

PRODUCER: Jonathan Debin, Andras Hamori, Malcolm Kohll, Seaton McLean, David Pupkewitz


SCRIPT: Stel Pavlou


EDITOR: David Wu

MUSIC: Headrillaz, Casper Kedros, Darius Kedros


RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 30, 2003

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