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Formula 51 (R)
Screen Gems
Official Site
Director: Ronny Yu
Producers: Andras Hamori, Seaton McLean, David Pupkewitz, Malcolm Kohll, Jonathan Debin
Written by: Stel Pavlou
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Rhys Ifans, Emily Mortimer, Meat Loaf, Sean Pertwee, Ricky Tomlinson

Rating: out of 5

Every once in a while, Hollywood comes out with an action film that manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seats by successfully mixing action, suspense, comedy, and romance. Formula 51 is not that film. I imagine the pitch meeting went something like this: “Put Samuel L. Jackson in a kilt, ship him to England and toss in some drugs.  People will pay $8 to see that!” The sad thing is, they’re probably right. People will pay $8 to see that, but half an hour into Formula 51, most will wish they had their money back.

Formula 51 centers around an American chemist, Elmo McElroy (Jackson) who develops a one-of-a-kind drug that’s 51 times more powerful than anything else on the market. The drug, POS 51, is guaranteed to give a high so strong it’s like getting “a personal visit from God.” Thus, McElroy heads to England with plans to sell his new wonder drug to the highest bidder. However, when the plan turns disastrous, McElroy finds himself stranded in Liverpool with a reluctant new partner (Carlyle) and a leather-clad assassin turned guardian angel (Mortimer). Mayhem quickly ensues, throwing the trio into a tangled web of double-crossers, lies, and deceit.

Formula 51 is just another classic example of a group of great actors stuck in a not-so-great movie. Jackson, Carlyle, and Mortimer do the best they can with what they’re given, but even their considerable talents aren’t enough to save this convoluted plot. The cast of supporting characters pursuing McElroy and Co. serves as more of an annoyance than anything else. Ifans is irritating as a potential buyer and Meat Loaf is laughable as a villain aptly named The Lizard. The gritty Liverpool setting does help to set the film apart from others of this genre and provides for a few laughs and jabs at British slang. Yet, for every forgettable laugh the film offers, it provides an even more forgettable action sequence and even manages to toss in a few scenes that I wish I could forget.

Formula 51 strives to be a smart, funny, thrilling action film but never quite makes it there. At best, it’s a good movie to rent on one of those cold, rainy nights when you’re bored.  Very bored.

—Jennifer Mosley


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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