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I really like Samuel L. Jackson as an actor and usually try to check out every movie he is in. Jackson just projects a whole lot of attitude, which makes just about every film in which he appears either interesting or fun. FORMULA 51 ($28) is definitely of the latter category; a film that combines Jacksonís attitude with Hong Kong director Ronny Yuís fast paced movie styling to create an entertaining action/comedy cocktail. Okay, so much of the filmís comedy is tinged black (no pun intended), which made me like FORMULA 51 a whole lot more than I probably should have.

In FORMULA 51, Jackson portrays Elmo McElroy, who runs afoul of the law on the very day he gets his degree in pharmacology. Thirty years later, Elmo is a master chemist working for a drug syndicate headed up by a badass known as The Lizard (Meatloaf). Wanting to get out from under once and for all, Elmo attempts to vaporize The Lizard and his entire syndicate, and then heads off to England for a twenty million dollar payday. In England, Elmo has made arrangements to sell his latest creation- a powerful new designer drug, which can be made from completely legal "over-the-counter" components. Unfortunately for Elmo, the Lizard survives being vaporized, and the big man puts an assassin on his tale, who ruins Elmoís big score by eliminating anyone looking to do business with him. The cast of FORMULA 51 also features Robert Carlyle as Elmo's liaison to the disorganized crime of the British underworld, as well as Emily Mortimer as the beautiful assassin and Rhys Ifans as British crime lord with "issues."

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made FORMULA 51 available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. A full screen presentation is provided on a separate layer of the DVD for anyone who cares. The wide screen version of FORMULA 51 is pretty typical for a new movie from Columbia; in other words, it looks great. The image is crisp, clean and very nicely defined, with no major problems to detract from the presentation. Colors are generally strong and flesh tones tend to be quite appealing. Blacks are deep and inky, while the whites are clean and completely stable. Contrast is quite smooth, plus the picture boast good shadow detail and depth. Digital compression artifacts remained well concealed throughout the filmís ninety-plus minute running time.

FORMULA 51 comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that features a solid action movie mix. All of the discrete channels engage frequently to create and a wild ride during the film's action sequences. Sound effect bounce nicely around the soundstage, while maintaining a cohesive sonic environment. Dialogue is crisply rendered, and intelligibility is only limited by oneís ability to get past some of the more pronounced British accents. The Bass channel is suitably deep and provides a nice, solid wallop. No other language tracks are included on the DVD, although English and Spanish subtitles are present.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. The main extra is the Cinemax Special: The Making Of Formula 51. This thirteen minute program is a fairly straightforward PR piece, although the interviews have a few interesting insight and keep the "happy talk" to a minimum. Theatrical trailers for FORMULA 51, BAD BOYS, HALF PAST DEAD, SNATCH and XXX close out the extras.

FORMULA 51 is a dark action comedy that I found enjoyable for the Samuel L. Jackson factor, its fast pace and some bits of British flavored humor. Columbia TriStarís wide screen presentation looks and sounds great, so if you are a Jackson, Yu or Carlyle fan, I think youíll want to check out FORMULA 51 on DVD.



Formula 51 (2002)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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