Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Sean Pertwee, Ricky Tomlinson, Rhys Ifans, Meat Loaf
Director: Ronny Yu
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: February 4, 2003

“POS 51—It’s like getting a personal visit from God.”

Film ***

Formula 51 delivers a similar dosage of both action and comedy that is big enough for two movies. It’s full throttle, high energy entertainment that seems to blend in elements from the worlds of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. From the Tarantino world, we have the presence of Mr. Bad Ass himself, Samuel L. Jackson, sporting the unlikely sight of a kilt for the entire movie. And from the Guy Ritchie world, we have the setting, which is in England, filled left and right with lowlife characters much like the ones depicted in Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. It adds up to 90 minutes worth of violence and laughs that’s downright perfect for a late Friday night viewing.

Jackson, who also co-produced the pic, stars as Elmo McElroy, a master chemist who was robbed of his future twenty years ago when he was pulled over by a cop and busted for drug possession, right on the day of his college graduation, nonetheless. Now, Elmo is a drug chemist working under a sinister crime lord known as The Lizard (Meat Loaf), but he is about to bail on his boss, looking to make the score of a lifetime across the Atlantic.

Traveling to Liverpool, England, Elmo plans to make the deal of a lifetime, for $20 million, that is. He has devised the most eccentric drug on the market, which he calls POS 51. It is 51 times stronger than cocaine, 51 times more explosive than ecstasy, and 51 times more hallucinogenic than acid, and it comes in the form of a blue pill that doesn’t look all that different from a sweet tart. The most intriguing fact about Elmo’s product is that it doesn’t contain any illegal ingredients. Once arrived in England, he is soon partnered up with Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle), the man who has set up the deal for Elmo, and who is also making a cool million from his participation.

Although Elmo is ready to get paid nice and fast, it won’t be easy for him. The Lizard, having survived an explosion that Elmo devised to wipe him out, is hot on his trail, employing a hired gun named Dakota (Emily Mortimer) to take out anyone and everyone that gets near his chemist, in order to guarantee his name on the purchase. Things get even more complicated when Dakota turns out to be a former flame of Felix’s.

Like just about any movie he’s in, Samuel L. Jackson holds every minute of the piece together with his bad-as-a-mother-can-be performance. Elmo is equipped with a dangerous ability for use of chemicals, but an arsenal of golf clubs as well. In one scene, he puts a club to good use on a group of skinheads with the same masterful force of the lightsaber he commanded in Attack of the Clones. As a sidekick, Robert Carlyle, known for playing insane very well in Trainspotting and The World is Not Enough, shows his lighter side, as he is given many of the movie’s funny one-liners. And one thing’s for sure, you’ll never look at Meat Loaf the same way again, especially by the end of the movie.

To sum it up, if you’re an admirer of Pulp Fiction and Snatch, like myself, then you’ll have no problem whatsoever enjoying Formula 51, which I find to be a respected combination of both films. Think of it more as Dr. Jules Winnfield Goes to England.

Video ***1/2

Columbia Tri Star strikes with a marvelous looking disc for Formula 51. The movie, which was released in England before hitting the states, is clearly shot in a non-traditional form of film stock. In fact, it bares much resemblance to the look of Snatch. The anamorphic presentation does this rare look much justice, with a picture that is kicking thoroughly with both crispness and clarity. Colors appear as good as they can, since the film is shot with what appears to be a light grayish form, but it still looks good nonetheless.

Audio ***1/2

There’s quite a lot of action in Formula 51, and Columbia Tri Star has supplied a lively 5.1 track to go along with the fast paced movie. All action scenes dominate the presentation, with a midtown car chase sequence taking top honors in the furious department. Music is frequent a lot in the movie, as well, which is comprised of techno beats with a little rap and hard rock on the side. A bloody good hearing, indeed.

Features **

Included is a 15 minute behind the scenes featurette from Cinemax, and trailers for this movie, as well as Bad Boys, Half Past Dead, Snatch and XXX.


Formula 51 offers both action and laughs at a pleasing fast pace, thanks in large part to Samuel L. Jackson’s ever show-stealing presence.