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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Samuel L. Jackson's the secret ingredient to 'Formula 51's'

By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service

FORMULA 51 (Rated R, with gross violence, profanity Two-and-a-Half Stars (Fair-to-Good)

The utter coolness of co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle are the saving grace in this Hong Kong-styled action thriller set amid Liverpool drug deals and mob assassins. Ronny Yu directs and Jackson wears a kilt. Why? Who knows, but on him it's cool. Screen Gems, 92 mins.

It takes a special guy to be cool in a kilt. Samuel L. Jackson is a special guy. But then, movie fans have known that for some time.

He's the best thing to happen to a kilt since Sean Connery.

It also takes a special guy to make "Formula 51" worth watching. So Jackson is the not-so-secret ingredient in the formula.

The results aren't fabulous, you understand. "Formula 51" is too gruesome, too icky, too contrived, too "Tarantino" to be taken seriously.

Directed by Ronny Yu, it follows the filmmaking tradition of his native Hong Kong, stressing action and dark humor over logic and character development.

But, since Jackson flaunts his mojo attitude, sharp-edge wit and utter confidence, and gets to swing golf clubs at balls and bad guys with equal abandon, it has to be fun.

And Jackson's robust approach is nearly matched by co-star Robert Carlyle, the delightfully sarcastic Scottish actor who has erupted from the ensemble casts of "Trainspotting," "The Full Monty" and "Angela's Ashes."

The two play shady characters who become the most unlikely buddies in a wild drug caper that threatens to be the most unsettling event to hit Liverpool since the Beatles performed at the Cavern Club.

Jackson is Elmo McElroy, whose dream of being a licensed pharmacist was wiped out by a silly drug arrest in 1971. Thirty years later, he's making illicit drugs for a slimy American drug lord named Lizard (Meat Loaf).

He's just invented a new party drug that employs nothing but legal ingredients, and yet it gives imbibers "a personal visit from God." Just as Lizard is about to exploit McElroy's latest creation, McElroy blows up his lab and flees to England.

He intends to sell Formula 51 to the highest bidder in the Liverpool underworld. He wants to retire from pharmaceuticals and play golf for the rest of his life.

Once in Liverpool, he's befriended by a soccer-crazy hustler (Carlyle); and both try to stay one step ahead of a sexy mob assassin (Emily Mortimer) and her slimy boss (Meat Loaf).

Gunfights, car chases, action stunts and explosions abound, along with a finale that's the bloodiest thing this side of the "Alien" stomach-ripper.

Party on, dudes.

Rated R, with gross violence, profanity.

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