Cast & Crew
Samuel L. Jackson
Produced by Mark Aldridge,
Stephanie Davis, Jonathan Debin, Andras Hamori, Samuel L.
Jackson, Malcolm Kohll, Seaton McLean, Stel Pavlou, David
Pupkewitz, Eli Selden, Julie Silverman; Directed by
Ronny Yu; Screenwritten by Stel Pavlou
Rated R for strong violence, language, drug content
and some sexuality; Running Time - 92 Minutes
Domestic Release Date
October 18, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
A series of new words need to be invented just to describe
how wretchedly awful "Formula 51" really is, the
new vehicle starring one the box office's most relentless
legends, Samuel L. Jackson. This isn't just your standard
bad movie, but one that abandons every established rule
of a repulsive endeavor and creates a chain of new ones
simply for itself. The movie is a sad, sorry, contemptible
pile of garbage, and how any studio has the balls to back
it in a major market, I will never understand.
Jackson plays Elmo McElroy, a chemist who, in the early
scenes of the film, has his life altered by a drug bust
shortly after graduation with honors from college (incidentally,
Jackson's presentation in this segment comes off as something
rejected from a "Cheech and Chong" flick). Quickly
fast forward 30 years later, where Elmo is working on a
formula for a powerful new drug disguised to look like some
kind of blue candy. He is scheduled to deliver the goods
to his drug dealer, the Lizard (Meat Loaf), but decides,
I guess, that there are better opportunities for him to
sell the formula to alternate sources. He arranges an explosion
in his lab just as his superiors arrive, and then boards
a plane to Liverpool, his most notable accessory being a
kilt which he wears for no apparent reason (and certain
characters spend the majority of the movie wondering if
he's wearing anything underneath). Too bad for Elmo, the
Lizard survives the explosion.
Meanwhile, we meet Dakota (Emily Mortimer), a precise and
experienced hit woman with a massive debt owed to the Lizard.
She is ordered to track Mr. McElroy down before he has the
chance to sell off the important formula, and if she manages
to do so without killing him, all of her debts will be erased
by the Lizard. Unfortunately, Dakota comes in conflict when
it means she has to return to Britain, a place she left
behind years before. No one knows for sure what her secret
is or why she ran, but when she crosses paths with Felix
DeSouza (Robert Carlyle), a lackey to an equally-huge drug
lord who is assigned to deliver Elmo and his formula for
a 20-million dollar deal, the apparent chemistry suggests
that they had a former life together.
"Formula 51" isn't a movie about plot, however.
As a matter of fact, it really isn't a movie about anything
special, other than unleashing a series of gross-out scenes,
crude British humor, bone-crunching violence, pathetic and
transparent characters, and the occasional contest between
Limeys over who has the worst accent. The movie's screenplay,
written by Stel Pavlou, isn't interested in the least in
what happens to his characters or their story arcs; he seems
to think the audience will enjoy its time simply by watching
him offend every segment of the English population possible
(his most notable inclusion to the film's shady characterizations:
a series of skinheads who are tricked into a drug-induced
diarrhea). Some of this might have been excusable had any
of it come across as funny or amusing, but alas, it does
not; in fact, the only plausible element of the whole film
is the Lizard character, a guy who appears in the film for
a total of 5 minutes and is always referring to himself
in third person.
Samuel L. Jackson never materializes as a sympathetic hero
in the movie; he's more like a caricature of a protagonist,
acting out in brutal and negative ways simply because that's
the way he wants to be. There is no explanation of how or
why he chose this particular lifestyle; it just sort of
happens, and the first moments of the film make use of one
of the most flimsy plot devices I've ever seen to justify
the whole setup.
The director is Ronny Yu, who also did the equally-awful
"Bride of Chucky" in 1998, and is suited up to
direct the much-feared "Freddy vs. Jason" vehicle
next year. When it comes to his repertoire, "Formula
51" is actually his highest point as a filmmaker, and
that's only because he's managed to put together a cast
of relatively talented and familiar actors for his production.
Jackson has always been, and will continue to be, a master
of his craft, while Mortimer and Carlyle have a certain
screen charisma that makes them bearable in almost any endeavor.
2002, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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