See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Formula 51

Posted By on Wed, Oct 23, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The active ingredients of this failed, quirky, crime actioner seem logical: Samuel L. Jackson, American cinema’s “Bad Motherfucker” and Hong Kong action director Ronny Yu’s (Bride of Chucky) visual adrenaline. But it’s the medium here that’s a mess: Formula 51 is a cheap and mostly ineffective knockoff of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, director Guy Ritchie’s darkly comic and dynamic crime duo.

With the character of Elmo McElroy, Jackson adds unlicensed pharmacist to his arm-long cinematic rap sheet. Elmo tickles the senses of his clients with his designer drugs. He brags that his recent masterpiece combines the effects of cocaine, LSD and ecstasy — only 50 times stronger. He calls it POS 51.

McElroy stages a complex, chemically explosive exit from his relationship with a scar-faced drug lord who refers to himself as “The Lizard” (Meat Loaf in a villainously over-the-top performance). The Lizard’s reaction? “He fucked me. I’m truly ass invaded.” McElroy’s response? “Rest in peace, muthafuckah.”

But The Lizard isn’t resting in peace. McElroy skies to Merry Old England (donning a tartan kilt in the colors of the McElroy clan, along with a bag of golf clubs) for a more lucrative deal with a gang of Ritchie-lite mobsters, only to find himself in the sights of The Lizard’s lovely avenger, Dakota (Emily Mortimer). Can “the chemical brother” survive bloody massacres, car chases, skinheads, soccer fanatics, an ad hoc partnership with mobster Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle, The Full Monty) and English food to live happily ever after on the links?

Who cares? The true irony of this formulaic failure is that the flicks it apes are Ritchie’s English, tweaked-up take on the Quentin Tarantino cult classic that made Jackson a star: Pulp Fiction. Formula 51 is cut with so much third-generation Tarantino that it’s more an entertainment low than a high.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by James Keith La Croix

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2020 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation