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Formula 51 (2001) – DVD Review

Formula 51 DVD


Written by Christopher Wicking
Directed by Ronny Yu
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Rhys Ifans, Meat Loaf


  • Cinemax special: The Making of Formula 51
  • Theatrical trailer

Released by: Columbia TriStar.
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Wait for cable.

Some are born with the capability of enjoying an enhanced state of being. Others achieve it through years of study and meditation. But most people believe that instant gratification is the ticket and take drugs to reach the ultimate. And outlaw chemist Elmo McElroy (Jackson) has supposedly developed the chemical express train to nirvana: POS 51. Since he doesn’t have a good profit sharing plan with his boss, the Lizard (Loaf), Elmo sends him his resignation in the form of a very large bomb. He plans to head to Liverpool to sell his formula for a $20 million payoff. Unfortunately, the Lizard survived and sends his assassin Dakota (Mortimer) to “enforce” his non-disclosure agreement with Elmo. Things just get more and more complicated as Elmo tries to cash in on Formula 51?

[ad#longpost]Sometimes you need junk food. You have a craving for a Whataburger or a Snickers bar or a Hostess Cupcake. This movie is the cinematic version of those little items: tasty in a processed kind of way and not really good for you. There’s the requisite supply of gunplay and stunt work for action fans, but the real reason to watch this film is Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle. Both play their characters with maximum cool and attitude. Who else but Jackson could pull off wearing a kilt outside of Braveheart? The plot is only there to introduce the outrageous characters these two meet running around Liverpool. The director does allow the industrial city to permeate the film, so the characters come off as rejecting the blandness by being as outrageous as they can and by taking lots of drugs. This is a movie you watch when you don’t want subtext or subtlety, but a pure visceral experience that’s you’ll probably forget the next day.

The only significant feature is a Cinemax quickie featurette on the movie. You get the usual praise that the cast and crew heap on one another. You do get to see the setup for a stunt in the film where a Jaguar drives off a pier unto a movie garbage barge. Fairly interesting, but, with pieces like this, there’s no depth. But of course there is no depth to the movie in general. So it’s no surprise that a trailer’s the only other bonus item on here.

Formula 51 isn’t great cinema, but it’s worth a viewing. Just be sure to brush your brain afterwards, lest some rot set in.

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