So here's the recipe for "Formula 51". Take a few euro-national film endowments, and the need to make a movie product. Get a Hollywood branded star to anchor it, make sure it has fast cars, faster women, and enough guns to overthrow a government with and it's ninety minutes worth of pure bank as it fills seats from the rainy Cineplex's of Bromborough England to the Malls of America.
When I first heard of "Formula 51", it was called the "51st State", and it was supposed to be about this crazy chemist played by Samuel Jackson who creates a revolutionary recreational drug that can change the world. Unfortunately this movie is much more predictable than that. This Formula is about greed, and guns, and looking good while insane out of control action happens around you.
And boy does this movie move. The kinetic cinematography of Hang-Sang Poon gets your synapses firing. Director Ronny Yu who brought us nasty messes like "Bride of Chucky" and is working right now on the one we're all waiting for "Freddy Versus Jason" coming in 2003... its no surprise how gory and visceral the action is.
"Formula 51" tries to soften the blow delivered by the gooey drippy violence spewed out in every other scene with frequent references to what's underneath the Scottish kilt that Jackson's Elmo McElroy character wears throughout the movie.
The only real chemistry to be found in this movie are the sparks let loose from the friction between Dakota Phillips, played by Emily Mortimer as the hot hit-chick assigned to kill Elmo, and Robert Carlsile as the punkish scouser Felix DeSouza, Dakota's ex-boyfriend who teams up with Elmo as he tries to make the big score.
"Formula 51" is a trashy movie developed by people who must stay up late and recite along with their "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" DVD. The ride is fun enough, I mean who doesn't want to see Samuel Jackson club skinhead nazis - But Its disappointing that our beloved anti-hero is a drug manufacturer whose ultimate goal isn't taking us all on the ultimate trip, but instead how much money can he weasel out of the deal.
Oh well, at least the movie has got Meatloaf back in the game as the horribly scarred drug lord known as the Lizard and trashed out Jaguars leaping into the River Mersey. Maybe next time we can be surprised by the formulas used by the movie product machine. Until then, drive fast and take your chances while taking in "Formula 51".
For Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2002 - Purple - Air Date: 10/23/02
USA / Canada / UK - 2002