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The 51st State
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Reviews & Ratings for
Formula 51 More at IMDbPro »The 51st State (original title)

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59 out of 89 people found the following review useful:

Formula 51 (as it's also known) rocks!

9/10
Author: (ehawke@sympatico.ca) from Canada
9 May 2004

What do you get when you put Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Meatloaf, Rhys Ifans, and Emily Mortimer together in a movie? A rollicking good time! This movie is pure entertainment and has some very, very funny moments. The dialogue is mostly tongue-in-cheek and snappy. The soundtrack is excellent (this coming from someone who doesn't really like techno, club, rap, or hip-hop music), and I would definitely buy this movie to watch again. It may not be for everyone, but the cast is first-rate; the story line believable, and seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a kilt couldn't be beat! I give this movie a 9 out of 10. It's not Academy Award material, but who cares!

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44 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

Pulp fiction meets Brookside! Joy!

7/10
Author: Graham Hughes from Liverpool, England
10 December 2001

OK, so the `what' British film industry needs another gangster-flick about as much as Zsa-Zsa Gabor needs another facelift, but this film is worth a look just for the fact that it's not set in London (hurrah!), it's very funny and it features Samuel L. Jackson in a kilt. Coming from Liverpool myself, I loved the fact that someone has taken the effort to make a decent film about my city (the last film set in Liverpool was ‘Beneath the Skin' – shoe-gazing rubbish with Samantha Morton, who couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag).

Energetically directed by Yu, with flamboyant performances by Carlyle, Ifans et al. 51st State is difficult not to enjoy. Okay, so it's not very deep and meaningful, and the plot may have been done a thousand times before, but that could just about describe almost every film that Hollywood has churned out this year. With film, as with any other entertainment medium, it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.

Moaning about the ‘dodgy' accents or the depiction of Liverpool as a haven for drug dealers and corrupt policemen is pointless nit-picking and should not detract from the fact that 51st State is a lively, refreshing and ultimately entertaining two hours worth of celluloid. It is also a damn sight better than all the British-films-not-made-by-Working-Title that have been released this year.

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24 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Just say no to the red pills

8/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
7 April 2008

From start to finish this film is a great laugh, it never takes itself seriously. The characters aren't consciously making jokes, what they say is just inherently funny. Be warned though if you don't like swearing in your films this isn't the one for you as just about every line contains more than one obscenity.

The film stars Samuel L Jackson as an ultra-cool, kilt wearing drugs chemist wanting to make one high-profit deal, Robert Carlyle as a Liverpool gangster and Emily Mortimer as the hottest assassin I've seen in a film.

I won't post any spoilers but if you enjoy films with car chases, funny dialogue and over the top action involving guns, golf clubs and heavy duty laxatives then this is the film for you.

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42 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

State of surprise at sleeper hit - 75%

7/10
Author: Benjamin Cox from Hampshire, England
19 April 2004

I remember this being a film I wanted to watch when it was released in the cinemas but I never got a chance to see it. It didn't help when Mum raved about it after watching it on Sky. So last night, Channel 4 gave me the perfect excuse for being late for work today - by showing this film and "Hard Boiled", I'll be a few minutes late after writing the reviews. Yay!

Back to "The 51st State" which revolves around Samuel L Jackson, a master chemist and drug producer who flies to Liverpool to secure the final "big deal" before his imminent retirement. The always fantastic Robert Carlyle is Felix, his contact and unwitting accomplice when things go wrong - as they always do in these sort of circumstances. Haven't they played GTA: Vice City? Anyway, the film is a stylish and comical action thriller with it's unusual setting, eccentric characters and unexpected comic twists. Jackson is, without a doubt, the coolest actor in moviedom at the moment. Only he could pull off wearing a kilt in a movie without looking a moron. Carlyle is perhaps a little excessive on the language (both in volume and content) but plays the Scouse stereotype perfectly. One thing this film does very well: almost every Scouse stereotype you can think of is there - car thief, misguided support for Liverpool, skin heads, every third word an expletive. The only unbelievable segment was the car chase which would never have reached the speeds it did in an actual Liverpool street.

Despite this, "The 51st State" is a fast-paced and well-made film which deserves more credit than it currently gets. I approached this film thinking that its gimmick was its setting - Liverpool is a million miles from downtown LA or New York, let's face it. But not so - there are so many oddball characters to make the film interesting that Sean Pertwee's straight-faced turn as a dirty cop seems out of place. Everyone else has their tongue firmly in their cheek. The sight of Jackson in a mammoth Seventies afro haircut signals this movie's intentions right from the start (and finish).

I have no hesitation in recommending this film. It will undoubtedly appeal to British viewers more than Americans but who cares - it's so refreshing to see that we can make movies like this with a largely British cast at such a standard. Jackson is so cool, it's like he's walking on dry ice and steals every scene he is in. "The 51st State" really does have something for everyone and I'm finding it very hard to find something not to like about this film. It's no "Face/Off" but it's still an enjoyable and exciting film, one which you really should see. Shame you missed it at the cinema, though.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Worth a watch

6/10
Author: mike. g3 from United Kingdom
19 March 2007

The 51st State is certainly no classic, but its funny and has a half-decent storyline. Being from the Liverpool area, I'm glad to see a film set there, even if it is about crime. Samuel L. Jackson is as cool as ever as kilt-wearin', drug-dealin' Elmo McElroy, and Robert Carlyle is in good form as Felix DeSouza, desperately trying to get himself a cut in the deal. The use of Ricky Tomlinson, a very funny actor pretty much unknown to American audiences, was also a nice touch. I'm very much a believer that British comedy is (almost) always better than American. I always enjoy the inclusion of English words and slang, and with Elmo not having a clue about English customs, such as the different language and the Mini Cooper, makes this film very funny. I'm not sure about Americans, but English people will appreciate the hilarity of the situation as Elmo and Felix run around Liverpool, with Elmo wanting his 20 million, and Felix just wanting to watch the Liverpool vs. Man Utd game! A clever twist at the end adds a bit of a philosophical side to the film, and shows The 51st State is more than just a few laughs.

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30 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant film. Funny, loud and outragous

10/10
Author: rubicon10000 from england
2 February 2002

The thing I like most about the 51st State is that it seems calculated to annoy pretentious idiots with their heads stuck up their own bottoms. It doesn't take itself seriously at all, and is therefore a very good psychological device that can employed to weed out those people that do. I LOVE the fact that it's an American style movie but that it takes place on English shores. Who on earth wrote the rule that if it's British it needs to look crap, have bad acting, have laughable dialogue (Guy Ritchie) and generally be embarrassing to watch? We live in a global age, and The 51st State is very much a global movie appealing to people in whatever country they happen to be. Hence British writer. American Star. Hong Kong Director.

AND IT'S A DAMN GOOD LAUGH. SEE IT!!!!

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16 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Best Quentin Ritchie Spin-off ever

6/10
Author: Todd from California
28 July 2003

It's easy for any of us to resemble the 'comic book guy' from the Simpson's and rant for days about this belated release mimicking the action/comedies of the last decade. Don't. This is not 'Get Shorty' nor 'Who is Cletis Tout?'.

Plot: A unfortunate jinx leads a chemist to an underground drug world. With clever calculations at foot and in mind, he devises an intricate plan for early retirement. Then Liverpool happens.

Granted, the first time I watched it seemed like a product from a 'Quentin Tarantino' screen writing class. Upon watching a few more times it becomes clearer that there is no other fault. Had this movie arrived before such 'Res Dogs' type movies it may have been the golden boy of this new genre (not-likely). But it still stands as a light-weight contender. The situations are cleverly drawn, the acting is very comical and the casting is on the money. The fast drawn shots keep the pace, the thunderous soundtrack imports the ambiance, and the British ghetto lingo always reels you in to the lovely slums of Liverpool.

Bottom Line: Better Title 'An American Drug Dealer in Liverpool'

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21 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Fun if you are in the mood and know what to expect - Jackson is key in making it stand out from the many other modern British gangster films

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
2 May 2004

Elmo McElroy is an American chemistry who has developed a new drug that is 51 times stronger, more effective and better than everything else on the market. He kills the major drug dealers in LA and heads to England to get a better deal. He arrives in England and is collected by Felix DeSouza and escorted to meet criminal Leopold Durant. However Elmo's hit on The Lizard failed and he remains keen to get hold of the drug - however the formula only exists in Elmo's head. The Lizard charges hit-woman Dakota (coincidently Felix's ex) to keep Elmo alive until The Lizard can get to him and get the formula. Meanwhile Elmo and Felix combine to try and sell the drugs.

Yet another in the treadmill of British bandwagon filmmaking, this film is, surprise surprise, a comedy British gangster movie with, wait for it, larger than life characters, funny violence and hyper-kinetic directing and editing. How very Lock Stock - things look pretty bleak from this description, except that the cast at least offers the hope that sufficient money has been poured into it to make it more than just another cheap cash-in on the success of Guy Ritchie's films. From the start it is obvious that this film is going to be more about energy than anything else and, to prove this, it then quickly edits it's way into a plot that relies more on forward motion and coincidence than anything else. The story is nonsense throughout and at times I found it a little irritating that so little attention was paid to the plot - but in fairness, to make a big deal out of that is to miss the point.

This is because the film is all about style, humour and pace and not about character or plotting. In this regard it is an enjoyable ride, albeit a silly and energetic one. The hyper directing from Yu really suits this and he does well even if he is not really very original in regards his shots etc. The editing fits with the formula set by Ritchie and is pretty much what you expect. What makes the film stand out from the rest of the copies is that it actually is quite good fun to watch (as opposed to some copies that are just cheap and nasty) - never hilarious but it is energetic enough to pull you along with it no matter how silly it gets. Of course it has weak points - a few characters are too daft and, whenever the overall plot is the main focus then it struggles.

Despite this the cast do well to keep things moving and they play a massive part in making this work. Jackson may not be doing anything new or wonderful here but he is key to the film working and he is worth every penny they must have paid him. He has great presence and he brings a lot of fun and energy to the film in a way that his lesser co-stars cannot. Carlyle is a good actor but he pales in comparison to Jackson in this - he isn't helped by the awful accent he is lumbered with and the fact that he is a little irritating. Mortimer is annoying as her character is just daft in the context of the plot, but not as annoying as Meatloaf who is easily the worst thing in the film. The support cast includes reasonable turns from Pertwee, Ifans, Tomlinson and Barber but this is Jackson's film 100% and it is difficult to imagine it being as enjoyable without him.

Overall, we all know what to expect - this is yet another gangster film in the mould of Lock Stock. In that regard it isn't original and it is, frankly, a mess in regards character and plotting. However it moves fast, is slick, clearly had a bit of cash thrown at it and, apart from a handful of stupidly silly moments, is actually quite fun to watch - even if it is almost instantly forgettable. The cast includes quite a few well-known faces but it is the awesome presence of Jackson (who looks like he is enjoying himself in an undemanding role) that makes this worth seeing.

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14 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

No Reason

4/10
Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
28 April 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There`s a very interesting history with this movie . Writer Stel Pavlou sent his unsolicited script to Tim Roth who in turn passed it onto Samuel L Jackson who liked it so much he raised the finance for THE 51ST STATE . When you`ve got a writer who comes up with the simple but flawless idea of sending an actor a script who liked it so much he`ll go out of his way to raise the money for the production that gives hope to all aspiring screenwriter

However ...

**** MILD SPOILERS ****

As much as the story behind the film fills me with joy and hope the film itself isn`t up to much . In fact it`s quite woeful in places and most of it`s down to the script . For example why does Jackson`s character walk around in a kilt ? Why do Manchester United fans travel to Liverpool the day BEFORE the match . Why are a bunch of neo-nazi skinheads after Felix ? That`s because logic and common sense are discarded to set up scenes later on in the movie . To set up a joke about " a black man in a dress " , to set up a superflous scene in a Liverpool bar and to set up a funny joke about " The sh*t is gonna hit the fan " . They`re all throw away scene that don`t push the plot forward , the proper term is " Underdeveloped " a fault of many scripts from inexperienced writers , oh and does anyone care to explain to me why one of the characters likes to wear women`s underware ? No don`t bother " Underdeveloped " script is the reason . I should also point out that Stel`s script is a bit too mid Atlantic for my taste , I mean look at the characters names : Felix Desouza , Dakota Phillips , Virgil Kane , Leopold Durant and Iki . What strange names for a bunch of Scousers . Mind you some scenes did raise a smile like " Okay let him down " and " You said get rid of him " , corny I know but they still raised a smile so credit where it`s due . Just a pity the screenplay wasn`t stronger

Director Ronny Yu shouldn`t escape criticism either . His directing style like the script is a bit too disjointed and mid Atlantic for my taste . In fact in some places it`s like a live action cartoon , but the greatest problem is the cast going completely over the top . Sean Pertwee is usually good at playing violent baddies but only when keeping his discipline . Here he looks like he`s doing a really bad Steven Berkoff impression and would have perhaps have brought the film down if the rest of the cast hadn`t given equally bad Steven Berkoff impressions , though to be fair at least Robert Carlyle does a convincing Liverpool accent

And on the subject of Carlyle one of my cyber friends called Stephanie ( Ironically who I know from The The web sites - Heartland should have been the theme song to this film for obvious reasons ) told me during a night out with her husband she saw some location filming for a film called DEAD FISH take place . An excited Stephanie asked one of the passing crew what the movie was about and he replied it was a comedy thriller starring Gary Oldman and Robert Carlyle . DEAD FISH - A comedy thriller . So let`s see now . PLUNKETT AND MACLEANE - A period comedy thriller starring Robert Carlyle . RAVENOUS - A black comedy starring Robert Carlyle . THE 51ST STATE - A comedy thriller starring Robert Carlyle and coming soon DEAD FISH - A comedy thriller starring Robert Carlyle . If I was Mr Carlyle I`d start concentrating on doing what he does best and that`s playing violent anti- heroes in memorable dramas otherwise Robert Carlyle might find himself becoming Britain`s answer to Eric Roberts

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A Quirky, Fish-Out-Of-Water Flick

6/10
Author: brando647 from Spring Hill, FL
29 October 2006

I am not really sure what the appeal of this movie actually is. It's definitely not the action, since fights are simple and few and far between. I wouldn't think its the comedy, since the premise of pretty much every joke is the same. It seems the majority of the humor in this movie is Samuel L. Jackson's character dealing with the differences between England and America and Robert Carlyle's character's disgust with Americans. Of course, every-so-often, we get a dash of toilet humor to mix things up. Pretty simple. Nothing special.

And yet, somehow, this movie manages to stay entertaining enough throughout the bulk of it. My only guess is that it comes from the charisma of the cast and characters. Samuel L. Jackson defies logic by kicking ass in just about every movie he's in, whether the flick's good or not. Robert Carlyle's energy and enthusiasm is enough to prevent me from getting annoyed with his constant whining. Emily Mortimer plays the soft-spoken, sexy assassin hired to bring in Jackson's character. And Meat Loaf....well....Meat Loaf bothered the hell out of me. His role as the Lizard, the big-time American drug dealer and previous employer to Jackson, is over-the-top and completely unconvincing as someone who would have rose to power in the American drug market. At times, he is just downright aggravating to watch (especially when he starts ranting and referring to himself in the third-person).

Fortunately, Meat Loaf (and a nearly as annoying Rhys Ifans)are not enough to completely drag the film down. It manages to stay quirky enough to keep entertaining and you shouldn't feel as if you completely wasted the last 92 minutes of your life. My advice? Check it out once, it's a hit or miss.

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