The 51st State (2001)
Exploding Lizard Meat Loaf
Curry was a bad idea, lads - Felix
To explain "The 51st State" is easy, take "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" shift the action up North to Liverpool and Manchester and make the characters even more caricature like. It really is that simple and like Guy Ritchie's movie "The 51st State" is very much a movie which works on 3 things: comical violent dialogue, comical characters and chaos as several bad guys collide leading to comical violent action. It works, you will be entertained if you enjoy comical, snappy violent Brit movies but it isn't a master piece of the style, just a well worked movie with some enjoyable scenes and performances.
30 years after getting busted for drugs, Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson - Deep Blue Sea) has come up with a new drug, 51 times more powerful than any other drug on the market and his boss The Lizard (Meat Loaf) is happy. Except Elmo has other plans and having double crossed The Lizard heads to Liverpool where he is met by Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle - The Beach) who is to take him to see Leopold Durant (Ricky Tomlinson) with a more lucrative drug dealer. Except The Lizard and Durant are not the only one interested in Elmo's little blue pills and Felix's ex Dakota Parker (Emily Mortimer - The Kid), an assassin who works for The Lizard, has been sent to Liverpool to keep an eye on Elmo.
Story wise if you ignore the drug elements for a moment what you have is a very familiar set up of various criminal gangs all wanting the same thing. So whilst the story takes us from Elmo double crossing The Lizard to encounters with Durant, gun dealer Iki and corrupt detective Virgil Kane all accompanied by DeSouza you know at some point several of these interested parties will collide with Elmo getting out of a tight squeeze. It works because this sort of collective chaos of crime is fun especially when things overlap so you have Elmo dealing with Iki only to then have to deal with Kane at the same time.
But to be honest the storyline whilst nicely put together is not for me the focus of the movie as this is a movie which wants to entertain from comedy, action and violence. So we have a lot of comical dialogue full of little phrases such as when The Lizard realises he's been double crossed he shouts "I've truly been ass invaded". Add to this a lot of the characters talking with a Liverpudlian accent you have even more comedy derived from the dialogue which less than surprisingly is full of swearing and Samuel L. Jackson as Elmo delivering fire and brimstone anger.
That leads me to the next thing because "The 51st State" is full of larger than life characters almost to the point we are talking caricatures. From Ricky Tomlinson as criminal Durant through to Meat Loaf as The Lizard and every single one even Emily Mortimer as Dakota is over the top. It is funny especially when you have Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle as unlikely buddies but it also feels forced.
And going hand in hand with larger than life characters you have larger than life comical action be it people getting shot or comical car chases. Although having said that some of the best action involves Elmo and chemical concoctions which have unexpected side effects. Again it is all good fun but it is forced with it almost reaching the point that it becomes a collective of over the top action scenes rather than anything else.
What this all boils down to is that "The 51st State" is a fun, action packed movie similar in style to "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" but shifted to Liverpool and a lot more comedy. It's fun but not the best example of this sort of comedy crime movie because it too often feels too forced although trust me you won't forget Samuel L. Jackson in a kilt in a hurry.
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