Starring:Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Meat Loaf and Emily Mortimer

By Gus Bode

1 1/2 Gus Heads

“Formula 51” A Big Fat Zero

A good movie can go a long way toward influencing others to make or star in good movies. In fact, one good movie can bring about a whole new awareness in the movie viewing public.


Unfortunately, a good movie can also give birth to a bad imitation, or even a string of bad imitations.

A bad imitation is probably the best way to describe “Formula 51.” I suppose the movie can be dropped into the cheap Jerry Bruckheimer action-flick genre, but more accurately, this movie is a rip-off of the Guy Ritchie crime movies that have taken American audiences by storm.

For those who are uninitiated, the two Guy Ritchie movies I’m talking about are “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch.” These are both quirky, even comedic, British versions of “Pulp Fiction.” And like “Pulp Fiction,” these movies now have their own bad imitation.

“51” kicks off with Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Elmo McElroy, cruising along an ocean-side California highway in a comical 1970’s hippie outfit and an afro that is almost large enough to be in a spoof film. He has his college diploma in pharmacology on the seat next to him and is happily smoking a joint when a state trooper pulls him over. With the drug arrest on his record McElroy can’t get a job, and apparently, his life is ruined.

We fast-forward 30 years to McElroy being a master drug chemist for the almost jokingly titled Lizard, a crime boss with a scarred face wearing a moomoo. While Meat Loaf really did a good job playing an ex-bodybuilder in “Fight Club,” the depth of his performance was not repeated here. The Lizard is utterly not scary, and although I will probably regret saying this, Meat Loaf should work on his chops or go back to singing. (shudder)

Through a series of very quick edits that seem to continue on annoyingly throughout the film, we are introduced to both the Lizard and his hired gun Dakota. This movie has the names of the characters and their roles in the plot prominently displayed on screen as we first see each of the characters. This has been done in other films, but it just seems plastic here and a way to keep the pace up in a movie that already has no clue how to slow down.

McElroy double-crosses the Lizard and takes off for England with his new miracle drug, named P.O.S. 51, and has a buyer lined up so he can make millions in one quick shot. Naturally, the deal is fouled up, and McElroy is on the run with a local fixer named Felix DeSousa (Robert Carlyle), who brought him to the deal in the first place. Carlyle, of “Trainspotting” fame, has the distinction of being the only actor in this movie who had even a tiny sparkle in his performance.


The Lizard sends out Dakota to get McElroy for him, and eventually she runs into DeSouza, her former lover. Then, DeSouza, McElroy and Dakota form an uneasy alliance in a bid to sell the drug and make them all rich. At this point, the varied cast has all the same strange characters we became so familiar with in “Snatch” and “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” A group of skinheads, a couple crooked cops, the Lizard and a drugged-out rave organizer are the crew following the purse in this movie, and none are anywhere near as well developed as the groups in the Ritchie films.

The movie descends into a series of cheap and quick action scenes with clich after clich done and redone. The drug is released at a rave, and the quick edits get even quicker with an attempt at making the movie seem “trippy” or “psychedelic,” and like pretty much everything else in this film, it sucks. In another scene, McElroy tricks the skinheads into taking a laxative in the place of the drug, and a scene that mimics “South Park” more than Guy Ritchie ensues. (no offense to South Park)

The end of the movie comes too quickly, and when the final action should be taking place, the audience is watching the credits. While this movie is too strange and, in some scenes, too gross to be called formulaic, it is a bad flick in any other sense. Quirkyness for its own sake proves to be a dead-end street for this movie, as is pretty much anything else that this lame film tries to do.

This movie has driven me to several conclusions:No. 1:Samuel L. Jackson should be more careful about the roles he accepts unless he wants to end up with a filmography that reads like that of his “Pulp Fiction” co-star John Travolta. One “Pulp Fiction” doesn’t make up for a lot of “Battlefield Earths.” Watch out Sam, you’ve been warned.

No. 2:Ronny Yu should never be allowed to direct again. I would say make him a gaffer or something, but gaffers are hard working, and I don’t want to insult them.

No. 3:I wish I had reviewed “The Ring.”

Reporter Alex Haglund can be reached at [email protected]