starring Samuel Jackson and Robert Carlyle
We've all seen Snatch, here, right? Guy Ritchie movie, with Brad Pitt and that guy from Snatch who's now in The Transporter, Jason Statham? With all that crazy Brit-flavored thuggery, where people get beaten up but they all talk with English accents and call people "wankers"? Not a bad little flick, and successful, and suddenly setting your little mid-scale thug comedy in Britain sounds like a pretty hot idea.
Hence Formula 51, a Snatch ripoff. It's got all the Snatchy stuff: dingy British locations, a preference for beatings over shootings, lots of semi-fancy camera work, and accents out the wazoo (or "bum", as those crazy Brits like to say).
Ah, but Formula 51 has a twist: Samuel Jackson in a kilt. Why is he wearing a kilt? How does he feel when wanky UKers make fun of him for it? *Is he really not wearing any underpants under that thing?* These are the questions Formula 51 offers for the audience's consideration, as a way of distinguishing Formula 51 from its predecessor. It's comedy, y'see.
Jackson plays Elmo McElroy, a wizard dope chemist who invents the best dope ever. After mostly blowing up a bunch of prospective buyers in America (including Meatloaf), Elmo heads to Britland for another deal. He hooks up with Robert Carlyle as his "wanker"-saying reluctant partner, and they try to sell the formula. Complications ensue when Carlyle's ex-girlfriend keeps trying to blow them away sniper-style on a contract from Meatloaf.
Fluffy stuff, as one would expect from a 2nd-or-3rd generation photocopy of Snatch. It's styley, rather than stylish, but there's just enough to get a flicker of response every so often. To its credit, Formula 51 chunks along, mildly amusing, giving Jackson some good stares, playing out the romance between Carlyle and his ex, never getting so bad you totally hate it, even if it does tend to blare.
The stuff that does work, let's credit that to Jackson and Carlyle's actorly appeal, and some okayish directorial work from Ronny Yu. Yu is yet another one of those transplanted Hong Kong guys; back in the 90s he made The Bride With White Hair, one of the awesomer HK flicks, and more recently he actually managed to squeeze something kind of cool out of the Hollywood sausage machine with Bride of Chucky.
The one thing Yu seems to care about here is making sure the movie is as stuffed with accents and Englishisms as possible; it's like you can hear Yu titter every time somebody says "Buggah!" So if you want to hear people say "fockin" and "bollicks" and "twat" (to rhyme with "hat") over and over and over again, this is your movie. Hell, there's even fish and chips.
Besides that, Yu's not doing anything terribly clever or fancy, but the old HK lessons still hold, and he zips everything along with some dumb energy and gets some comedy funniness out of his actors and situations. Not a lot, mind you, not enough to make it worth seeing, but it's not offensively bad or anything. It's just your average forgettable movie knockoff of a better movie.
-- Stephen Notley