The 51st state

- Nice wheels. Dirty deals. And one mean mother in a kilt. (tagline)

51st state is a movie released in 2002. Starring Samuel Jackson in a kilt and Robert Carlyle toting a Jaguar and a Liverpool FC football shirt, this movie promises a lot - but can it keep it?

"So let me get this straight. Bollocks is bad, whereas the Dog's bollocks is good?"
"Yeah"
"Gotcha"

The plot.

The film kicks off with Elmo McElroy (Samuel Jackson) receiving a pharmaceutical degree – with honours – and gets stopped in his car smoking a joint the same day, effectively ruining his career as a pharmaceutical scientist. This happens in 1971.

30 years later, McElroy invents the ultimate drugPOS 51. The story of the movie revolves around this drug, supposedly 51 times more explosive than ecstasy, and 51 times stronger than cocaine. McElroy tries to strike a giant deal selling the formula for this drug – based 100% on off-the-shelf ingredients, and therefore being completely legal.

The chase for the contract takes us to Liverpool, where most of the action takes place. Felix De Souza (Robert Carlyle) is a Liverpudlean, acting as McElroy’s guide through several twists in the plot, involving drug dealers, corrupt police and a bunch of Nazis, a football game between Liverpool FC and Manchester. Several kilos of flying lead gives the movie a fast pace, but leads, unfortunately, to a rather discouraging finale.

"My boss is dead, I can't get a ticket for the match, and I have a bullet hole in my ass."

The problems

Shallow characters, painfully insincere dialogue, a seemingly unprovoked and out-of-place kilt and a few half-ass car chases let the movie down in a rather unfortunate way. The way the crowd at a rave party uncritically eat a brand new drug en masse, without asking questions, is plain ridiculous. Also, if you are familiar with Liverpool, it becomes obvious that the order of the streets they drive through is completely random - did the car teleport? At one point of the film, Felix grabs a newspaper from his mailbox - the Liverpool ECHO. Which does not have a subscription service. The ending of the movie also seems rather pointless, ruining every scrap of tension that is being built throughout (without further describing it, in case you were considering watching it).

All in all, the movie has a few funny quotes, and spotting locations in Liverpool was entertaining in itself. It is also admirable to see how the director has managed to show how the life of Felix (the Scouser) revolves around Liverpool FC. However, as a whole, I think this must be one of the least inspiring movies Samuel Jackson has done, and with all the details not working together, the movie was more a failure than anything else.

"Football and drugs - A perfect Saturday"

The Players

Alternative title: Formula 51 (in the US - as the whole point of the title was likely not to be understood over there.)

Actors: Samuel Jackson, Emily Mortimer, Meat Loaf, Jake Abraham, Mac McDonald, Aaron Swartz, David Webber, Michael J. Reynolds, Robert Carlyle, Paul Barber

Director: Ronny Yu

Written by: Stelios Pavlou (former student of the University of Liverpool)

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