In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_pride_ver2

Pride

Takes a formulaic approach but is ultimately very effective in its retelling of the fundraising activities of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Would make…

Thumb_boxtrolls_ver13

The Boxtrolls

"The Boxtrolls" is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Formula 51

  |  

"Pulp Fiction" and "Trainspotting" were two of the most influential movies of the last 10 years, but unfortunately their greatest influence has been on ripoffs of each other--movies like "Formula 51," which is like a fourth-rate "Pulp Fiction" with accents you can't understand. Here instead of the descent into the filthiest toilet in Scotland we get a trip through the most bilious intestinal tract in Liverpool; instead of a debate about Cheese Royales we get a debate about the semantics of the word "bollocks"; the F-word occupies 50 percent of all sentences, and in the opening scenes Samuel L. Jackson wears another one of those Afro wigs.

Jackson plays Elmo McElroy, a reminder that only eight of the 74 movies with characters named Elmo have been any good. In the prologue, he graduates from college with a pharmaceutical degree, is busted for pot, loses his license, and 30 years later is the world's most brilliant inventor of illegal drugs.

Now he has a product named "P.O.S. Formula 51," which he says is 51 times stronger than crack, heroin, you name it. Instead of selling it to a druglord named The Lizard (Meat Loaf), he stages a spectacular surprise for Mr. Lizard and his friends, and flies to Liverpool, trailed by Dakota Phillips (Emily Mortimer), a skilled hit woman hired by The Lizard to kill him, or maybe keep him alive, depending on The Lizard's latest information.

In Liverpool we meet Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle), a reminder that only six of the 200 movies with a character named Felix have been any good. (The stats for "Dakota" are also discouraging, but this is a line of inquiry with limited dividends.) Felix has been dispatched by the Liverpudlian drug king Leopold Durant (Ricky Tomlinson), whose hemorrhoids require that a flunky follow him around with an inner tube that makes whoopee-type whistles whenever the screenplay requires.

The movie is not a comedy so much as a farce, grabbing desperately for funny details wherever possible. The Jackson character, for example, wears a kilt for most of the movie. My online correspondent Ian Waldron-Mantgani, a critic who lives in Liverpool but doesn't give the home team a break, points out that the movie closes with the words "No one ever found out why he wore a kilt," and then explains why he wore the kilt. "You get the idea how much thought went into this movie," Waldron-Mantgani writes, with admirable restraint.

Many of the jokes involve Felix's fanatic support of the Liverpool football club, and a final confrontation takes place in an executive box of the stadium. Devices like this almost always play as a desperate attempt to inject local color, especially when the movie shows almost nothing of the game, so that Americans will not be baffled by what they call football. There are lots of violent shoot-outs and explosions, a kinduva love affair between Felix and Dakota, and an ending that crosses a red herring, a McGuffin and a shaggy dog.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Ebert's Most Hated

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sometimes, Roger Ebert is exposed to bad movies. When that happens, it is his duty -- if not necessari...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus