"Formula for Disaster"
What You Need To Know:
In FORMULA 51, ex-druggie Elmo (Samuel L. Jackson) has designed a drug that is 51 times better and stronger than acid, cocaine and ecstasy combined. The problem is that he has concocted the stuff under the auspices of a nasty syndicate of hoods headed by the despicable Lizard (Meatloaf) and now he’s finding it hard to get out from under his thumb. Lizard survives Elmo’s attempt to kill him and pursues Elmo all the way to England, where Elmo is now trying to sell his super formula to a new set of unsavory characters for $20 million. Meanwhile, Dakota Phillips, a beautiful and deadly accurate hit woman, is enlisted by the vengeful Lizard to knock off Elmo. Will Elmo find a buyer who can stay alive long enough to complete a drug purchase? Can Elmo stay alive himself?
Although FORMULA 51 succeeds in presenting a few brief funny moments. Ultimately, rather than being a successful comedy, it becomes a sad embarrassment due to its flagrant callousness and amoral values. Samuel L. Jackson’s considerable acting skills are grossly wasted in this movie, and his participation as an executive producer is a regrettable milestone in his career
(PaPaPa, LLL, VVV, SS, , Ho, NN, AA, DD, M) Very strong pagan worldview; constant, unrelenting foul language with over 135 obscenities and 3 profanities; car chases and crashes, and extreme violence with people getting blown up, shot and crushed; homosexuality, sexual activity and implied fornication; partial nudity of a female’s back wearing panties and male buttocks as he moons the camera; alcoholism; smoking and substance abuse; and, lying and deceit.
In one of the rare instances that did not include “the F word,” Elmo McElroy (Samuel L Jackson), a self-made chemist, tells his partners in crime that, “Drugs always kill you in the end.” That may have been the only insightful statement in this ill-conceived, unrestrained exercise in gratuitous violence. Human life has no value, and characters are nothing more than a shooting gallery made up of farcical-looking gangsters, skinheads and other maladjusted misfits. All of this evil extravagance supposedly takes place in a funny, “film noir” style. Jackson gets away with wearing a kilt through the entire movie, the hit man is a beautiful woman, and the cops, even if British, are both dim-witted and crooked.
FORMULA 51 begins with a flashback to the early seventies where Elmo is driving along the California coast on his way to college. He’s smoking a giant-sized joint setting a light-hearted tone for what is to come. This seems an obvious reference to the classic Cheech and Chong movies. Elmo is even sporting the same type of digs the famous pair of cannabis heads used to wear. He’s promptly pulled over by the police and busted. Right at that moment Elmo’s dreams of pursuing a distinguished and lucrative career in chemistry go “UP IN SMOKE.” He, of course, blames it on the cops.
Flash forward to the present. In spite of his past, Elmo has somehow managed to learn to mix chemicals for a living. He has designed a new super-drug which is 51 times better and stronger than acid, cocaine, and ecstasy combined (not Quaaludes too?). The problem is that he has concocted the stuff under the auspices of a nasty syndicate of hoods headed by the despicable Lizard (Meatloaf). Elmo is finding it hard to get out from under his thumb. Not to worry. How else does an crime-entangled chemist gain his freedom except by blowing up his oppressors? That is exactly what Elmo does.
Except Lizard survives the attempt on his life and pursues Elmo all the way to England where he is now trying to sell his super formula to a whole new set of unsavory characters for $20 million. Vengefully, Lizard has enlisted Dakota Phillips (Emily Mortimer), a beautiful and deadly-accurate hit woman, to knock off Elmo.
Elmo has hardly gotten off his flight when some nasty skin heads try to muscle in on the action, a couple of crooked British cops are hot on his trail, and the Lizard would now prefer that Dakota take out everyone around Elmo so he can get the Formula 51 for himself. This sudden turn of events makes it increasingly difficult for Elmo to find a buyer who can stay alive long enough to complete the purchase. Fortunately for him, one of the dead gangster’s hirelings, Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle), becomes his reluctant sidekick and helps Elmo thread his way through the Liverpool underworld in search of a buyer.
The attempt to turn FORMULA 51’s preposterous premise into a comedy raises the issue of insensitivity to human life and use of obscenities for effect to a whole new level. FORMULA 51 succeeds in presenting a few brief, genuinely funny moments. Ultimately, rather than being a successful comedy, it becomes a sad embarrassment on account of its flagrant callousness and amoral values.
Samuel L. Jackson’s considerable acting skills are grossly wasted in this movie. His participation as an executive producer is a regrettable milestone in his career. The same can probably be said for Robert Carlyle, who is a good, likable actor. His unrelenting use of “the F word” does nothing to further his image. Emily Mortimer’s performance, unfortunately, does not quite reach to the height of her beauty. She was not helped by the character she chose to portray. Nevertheless, she should do well in the future if she is smart enough to stay away from vehicles like this. Meatloaf has successfully made a transition from music to film. That is more the reason to wish he had found a better movie than this one. Placing its logo on this poisonous concoction, with no redeeming value whatsoever, has sadly tarnished the image of Virgin Atlantic Airways; an airline well known for the quality of its transatlantic service.
FORMULA 51 unambiguously points out where it has come from when Mr. McElroy, in a fitting end, proudly moons the audience.