Formula 51

Samuel L. Jackson was in Pulp Fiction. Robert Carlyle was in Trainspotting. Formula 51 is crap. It tries to combine the best elements of both movies, but instead brings them together and leaves out all the good, replacing anything substantial with a whole lot of nothing. It is violent, profane, loud, and utterly devoid of anything meaningful. The concept is potentially interesting; Elmo McElroy (Jackson, XXX, Attack of the Clones) has a superdrug whose ingredients are all completely legal. He is the only person with the formula, and wants to sell it to the highest bidder. He double-crossed Lizard (Meat Loaf, The Salton Sea, Focus) in favor of some big dealers in England. So off to England he goes, with a pissed off Lizard on his way, and all hell soon to break loose.

Lizard hires Dakota Phillps (Emily Mortimer, Lovely & Amazing, Love's Labour's Lost), an ace hitwoman to kill the people around him but to keep him alive. Meanwhile, McElroy hooks up with Felix DeSouza (Carlyle, The Beach, Angela's Ashes), who is going to help him find a buyer. Well, it turns out that DeSouza and Phillips used to date, and currently do not have the greatest relationship. Oh, and there are a bunch of skinheads chasing McElroy and DeSouza, and some other random things. It makes no difference, since Formula 51 is surprising boring given the amount of violence and explosions. There are plenty of good actors here, including everybody named so far and Rhys Ifans (Human Nature, The Shipping News), but Stel Pavlou's screenplay is so obnoxious that even their skills cannot rescue themselves.

The director, Ronny Yu, is also a good director. However, most of his efforts in English have left much to be desired. Yu (Chasing Dragon, Bride of Chucky) works best in martial arts, Hong Kong setting. Although Formula 51 may have the same kinetic pacing as those other films, the lack of a basic plot and any sort of development seriously hampers the film. It seems that whenever something slows down in the film, Yu decides to add a fight scene. One of the running jokes is that Jackson's character wears a kilt, and everybody in England calls it a dress. Not funny the first time, and certainly not funny the tenth time. Crude humor like exploding bodies and diarrhea also find their way into the story, as well as a clumsy romance that reemerges between Phillips and DeSouza.

The main issue is that the story is much too convoluted for its own good. One would think that is a guy had a formula like McElroy's, dealers would bend over backwards to get it. McElroy should have an easy time selling it, and experience nothing like what happens in this movie. The McElroy character is all attitude, where attitude means a sneer, and nothing else. This is a grand waste of Jackson's talents. Carlyle's character really serves no purpose, and feels more like a puppy dog following his master around. There is so much superfluous bluster that by the end it doesn't really matter who lives, dies, or who gets the formula for the drug. The original title was The 51st State, and this is still the title internationally. The filmmakers changed it domestically to Formula 51 as not to confuse some of the dumber viewing public. They had a lot more to worry about that the name.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated R for strong violence, language, drug content, and some sensuality.

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