Quirky British drug dealers, liberal use of the F-word and Samuel L. Jackson in a kilt. Formula 51 is the latest attempt to mirror the oh-so-chic action/comedy capers of limey lowlifes that director Guy Ritchie (Snatch) has done so well.
Jackson plays Elmo McElroy, an American chemist looking to score a big payday with a new drug he’s created before leaving the business altogether. After double-crossing his boss, the Lizard (Meat Loaf), Elmo heads to England. While trying to negotiate a deal for his drug, he must outrun a female assassin, crooked cops and angry skinheads. None of these characters is interesting.
Director Ronny Yu has a kinetic style that’s just right for this sort of material, but his well-filmed action scenes are too often mean-spirited and bloodier than you’d expect. Freshman screenwriter Stel Pavlou further bogs down any pep with a story that sorely lacks the maniacal convolution of Ritchie’s plots.
Elmo touts his drug as being 51 times stronger than coke. If you’re looking for a tale of Brits behaving badly, watch Snatch again. It’s 51 times better than this.