The 51st State
Dir: Ronny Yu
Star: Samuel L Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Sean Pertwee
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 2001
Format: DVD R2

Elmo McElroy (Samuel L Jackson) is a genius chemist who due to a drug charge was diverted from his calling as a pharmacist to end up working for a drug lord called the Lizard (Meatloaf). Elmo is not happy, so he steals his latest creation the super drug POS51 and cuts a deal with a British criminal Leopold Durrant (Ricky Tomlinson). The Lizard want his drugs back so he hires a hit woman called Dakota (Emily Mortimer) to kill anyone who comes into contact with Elmo. This includes Felix DaSouza (Robert Carlyle) the hired protection for Elmo, and who is her ex-boyfriend. Add to the mix Iki (Rhys Ifans) a drug crazed club owner, Kane (Sean Pertwee) a bent cop, and a bunch of mean skinheads and this one explosive formula. It is a formula which Felix and Elmo will be lucky to survive.

Since Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels the British gangster movie is a genre that has been done to death. At least more recently the seemingly endless movies in the genre have become a bit more original. Sexy Beast concentrated on the characters rather than the story. Essex Boys told the story from an outsider's point of view. Here 51st State ships the whole lot off to Liverpool and adds a huge dose of comedy. Thank heavens no more mockney shenanigans; bring on the scally wide boys.

Take a look at the cast and you will find some of the best acting talent from Britain on display (along side the ultra cool Samuel L Jackson). Robert Carlyle is one of the most versatile character actors. From Hamish Macbeth to Begbie he has the ability to play almost any role. As Felix he gives us a sort of Liverpudilan Begbie with a bit of Joey Boswell added. A hard man, true, but a sort of mommy's boy as well. Samuel L Jackson does what he does best playing the ultra cool straight talking character he has become known for, but this means he isn't exactly pushed. The supporting cast is very good. Emily Mortimer is as sexy as she is deadly. Rhys Ifans is as usual annoying (at least at one point he acknowledges this). Sean Pertwee adds another fine supporting role, Meatloaf gets the best line in the film, and Ricky Tomlinson is short-lived but very funny.

You see this film isn't so much a gangster film as a comedy, and as such it is funny. A lot of the humour is very British from the Liverpool fan winding up the Man U fans, to the fish and chips national dish. I doubt it transfers to well across the Atlantic. It hits targets a far apart as Britains disdain for anything foreign, to America's ignorance of what's two foot beyond their borders. It then adds some action and some butt jokes. The end result is a nice comic mix of over the top characters, flag waving, and jokes at all levels. Don't get me wrong this movie has its far share of action, but plays it more along the lines of Rush Hour.

Maybe the explanation for this comes from the direction of Ronny Yu. After all this was the man who made the Child's Play series watchable again with the highly underrated Bride of Chucky. In that film he mixed horror with comedy to good effect, and here he mixes the comedy with gangland action. The end result is some very slick direction, and some good laughs. Things zip along at an entertaining pace, and the whole affair has a polish that really makes it stand out amongst other British films. All of this bodes well for his next project, which is long awaited Freddy Vs Jason.

51st State is a lightweight action comedy. Its Liverpool setting will be annoying to some, refreshingly different for others. The acting talent on view is impressive (especially Robert Carlyle) even if Samuel L Jackson seems to sleep walk through his part. The direction is hip and slick but never boring. It is funny however I fear that the appeal of the comedy may be a little local. If you feel you can stomach another British gangland movie then this film is seriously worth giving a go. I found it a great laugh.

Just one thing though, what on earth was that bit at the very end about?


Nice Wheels. Dirty Deals. And One Mean Mother In A Kilt.


The Lizard: He screwed me. I've been truely arse invaded.

Elmo : If I wanted cuisine, I would've gone to Paris...
Felix : You can still go to France mate, it's not to far, it's full of pricks and they hate yanks as well!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Very nice transfer.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Good stuff, nice big bang at the beginning.
Features Audio Commentary with screenwriter Stel Pavlou
Making of Featurete
Behind Scenes Video Diary
Interview with Stel Pavlou + Cast members
Production Notes
Verdict Great transfer and a fine selection of extras.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home