Samuel L. Jackson stars as Elmo McElroy in a solid action vehicle which found limited audiences in the U.S. during its theatrical run – priming Formula 51, a.k.a. the 51st State, for great success on home video/DVD.
An international cast and director Ronny Yu (Warriors of Virtue) broadens the worldwide appeal of this movie and has some great European settings. Locations spanned from Los Angeles to England. Instead of feeding on stereotypes (see Shanghai Knights) Formula 51 uses fish and chips, a Pilkington truck, a Mini Cooper and local dialect like “shut your gob”, to authenticate characters giving the audience a realistic view of the world they live in.
Robert Carlyle (Once Upon a Time television series) co-stars as Felix DeSouza, a good-hearted bloke who becomes involved in Elmo’s crime capers. Emily Mortimer, plays Dakota Phillips a mysterious character who has a unique role that’s refreshing to see. The realistic romance that blossoms is very unexpected because promotional previews only show a minimal female interest at best. Like Elmo says, “if you ever want to get the girl, broaden your horizons.”
Elmo’s profession and seemingly contradicting views might draw more focus for some audience members or cause confusion for others. Jackson does get a huge amount of memorable dialogue and his costume provided some mildly amusing humor and even closure. His lines like “drugs always kill you in the end” really make you wonder what his fate will be.
Promotional previews and marketing did have success in the power of suggestion and the formula of this movie’s story switches key information that audiences usually know from the beginning which makes a prominent twist at the end. Also, notice the actions between Felix and Elmo during the climax. You may feel as if you’re being misdirected for a while, but this great opportunity is either ignored or unrealized because the plot takes another direction towards a very predictable and gross resolution.
Yu and his crew have great visual results, like great camerawork during a stadium sequence and a relationship talk, with very few mistakes, like the stunt driver not having his hands on the wheel in a sequence set in an alley and a duplicate shot of a road puddle splash.
The action sequences are realistic and very well planned especially a realistic car chase scene where Elmo drives. The audience knows Elmo’s not an expert driver and the stunt drivers reflect his inexperience instead of staging over the top stunts and narrow escapes that would diminish the realism of the film. The only thing over the top here are the antagonists. Meatloaf plays The Lizard, a vindictive, violent crime boss who always talks about himself in the third person which takes its toll on viewers unless you like watching pro wrestling on TV.
Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) plays a shady gun supplier who also enjoys taking lessons on meditation (an unsuccessful attempt at more humor). “I’m getting on my own nerves,” he exclaims. If you think you can endure these weak antagonists, then you’ll be satisfied with the rest of the film’s content. Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated R for drug content, violence, language and sexual content.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler