Formula 51 (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Formula 51, aka The 51st State, is an attempt to make a big sweeping Tarantino/Richie film with colorful over-the-top gangsters, outrageous plot elements, exaggerated violence, and farcical Pythonesque humor.

Samuel L plays a renegade chemist who claims to have invented the ultimate drug - more than 50 times more potent than Cocaine or LSD, yet perfectly legal, and made with perfectly legal components. In theory, the first drug lord who could obtain Jackson's secret formula would be able to make billions of dollars.

Jackson, wearing a kilt and carrying his golf clubs throughout the film, is in Liverpool, England to cut a twenty million dollar cash deal for his formula. Things go wrong. People die violently. Jackson enlists some help from a two-bit thug and a hitwoman, allowing him to take on the drug lords face-to-face.


Emily Mortimer flashes a nipple in a bathtub sex scene with Robert Carlyle.

Samuel L Jackson's body double walks away from the camera naked.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1 and fullscreen. Good transfer.

  • "making of" featurette

The part of the chemist, so cock-sure of his own salesmanship abilities, seems to have been written for Samuel L, and he nails it effortlessly, as he has so nailed so many similar roles in the past.

Unfortunately, there isn't much else to the movie. It is designed primarily as a comedy - probably more similar to Richie's films than Tarantino's - but it walks uneasily on that fine line between disgusting levels of violence and comical parodies of violence. Frankly, it never seems to be as funny as it thinks it is.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: two stars, but widely mixed. Ebert 1/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Entertainment Weekly C,

  • General UK consensus: same as the states. Two stars as an average, divided among those who liked it and those who despised it. Telegraph 3/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 2/10, The Times 6/10, The Mirror 8/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it a surprisingly high 6.4/10, in the face of poor reviews, poor box office, and poor exit interviews. Yahoo voters say 2.8/5.
  • Box Office Mojo. A bomb. Production budget was $27 million, and marketing costs are estimated at $13 million. It grossed $5 million in the USA, despite a 1900 screen rollout. It was relatively more popular in the UK, grossing about the same in a country with 1/5 the population.
  • Exit interviews: Cinema Score. It did OK with males under 21, but was roundly panned by females and older men.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. They sure didn't get much back on their $40 million investment. I'm quite weary of these ultraviolent Brit gangster comedy/dramas. I probably would have hated this one completely, except for Samuel L, who can make almost anything entertaining with his characteristic blustering.

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