[box cover]

Formula 51

Has any other film had the impact 1994's Pulp Fiction had on cinema? Nearly ten years later, and it is still the reigning champ — the movie most often quoted or stolen from. Perhaps this will come to an end soon, but every time it tapers off, a new wave of ripoffs and nods arrives. It's rather apparent in Ronny Yu's Formula 51 (2002), which combines two icons from '90s cinema cool: Fiction's Samuel L. Jackson and Trainspotting's Robert "Begbie" Carlyle. Though these two great tastes go okay together, it's a derivative story of criminals and their dealings that gets a pass solely because the movie knows how to balance slight and cool without feeling like the people making it are having more fun than those watching it. Jackson stars as Elmo McElroy, a chemist who turns to working for drug dealers after losing his pharmacological license due to a careless traffic incident. After inventing a wonder-drug named POS 51, he decides to kill off his former boss "The Lizard" (Meat Loaf) and sell the drug to British investors. But things don't go as planned as the Lizard survives and sends gorgeous English hitwoman Dawn "Dakota" Phillps (Emily Mortimer) after McElroy. Meeting Elmo in the U.K. is dedicated Liverpool Soccer fan Felix DeSouza (Carlyle), who can't stand Elmo, and all he really wants to do is watch his team beat Manchester United. But when Felix's boss Leopold is assassinated by Dakota, Elmo has to scramble for a new deal, and to get Felix's help, Elmo has to cut him in on the action. This leads them both to Iki (Rhys Ifans), a totally-out-there dealer who's up for the formula. But of course, Dakota has a past in England — she used to date Felix — which makes her question her loyalties. With its collection of "wacky" characters who intersect with each other when called for, the obligatory romance, and a happy but morally questionable ending, Formula 51 is as likely to annoy a viewer as please them. It's all been done before — often better — but Ronny Yu knows how to do this sort of thing (he made Bride of Chucky, something of a minor masterpiece) and his skill here is apparent. Of course, watching Jackson and Carlyle do their thing is never hard, though the film never requires them to stretch their talents, while Ifans delivers his stock-in-trade insanity rather well. For a formula picture, Formula 51 manages to scrape by on its stars. Columbia TriStar presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan transfers with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a 13-minute featurette and trailers for this and other Columbia films. Keep-case.
—DSH


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