Film Review Main This issue's selected FeatureOur Film of the Month and moreNews from this issueContents of this issueHow to buy it online
This issue's selected FeatureOur Film of the Month and moreNews from this issueContents of this issueHow to Buy this issue

FILM OF THE MONTH – Dec 2001

From Jan 2002
Film Review

4 Stars - RecommendedTHE 51st STATE

Film Review Hotline

Also reviewed: The Princess Diaries
More December Recommendations

The 51st State

UK microsite (FHM)

STARS Samuel L Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Ricky Tomlinson, Emily Mortimer, Sean Pertwee, Meat Loaf, Rhys Ifans
DIRECTOR Ronny Yu
SCREENPLAY Stel Pavlou
CERTIFICATE 18
DISTRIBUTOR Momentum Pictures
RUNNING TIME 1hr 32mins
OPENING DATE December 7

Los Angeles had its Pulp Fiction, London its Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and now Liverpool has The 51st State. The only difference is that the star of this ferociously entertaining comic-thriller is an African-American in a kilt or, to quote Sean Pertwee in the film, "a large black gentleman wearing a dress" or, to quote the poster, ‘one mean mother in a skirt'.

We are, of course, talking Samuel L Jackson who more or less looks like he strode out of Jackie Brown, hitched on a sporran and made his way to Merseyside. As executive producer, Jackson has been quietly nursing this production for five years – and it was worth the wait. To see the 6'3" star pitted against a menagerie of Liverpudlian lowlifes – each thinking he (or she) is tougher than the next – is a sight to be savoured.

Jackson plays Elmo McElroy, a `master chemist' who has created a designer drug from legally available ingredients which he describes as "a personal visit from God". He's asking for $20 million for the formula and, having wiped out a drug cartel in Los Angeles, heads to Liverpool to ply his
miraculous party favour.

Owing an obvious debt to Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, The 51st State wears its style on its sleeve and is directed with panache by the Hong Kong-born Ronny Yu. Like Rush Hour transposed to North-west England but with enough profanity to make Martin Scorsese blush, the film never lets up for a second, punctuating scenes of extreme violence with moments of slapstick humour. Ronny Yu, whose previous English-language credits include Warriors of Virtue and the inventively scabrous Bride of Chucky, encourages his cast to act to the gods. And the actors rise to the challenge. At one point, Rhys Ifans, as a deranged gangster, snaps, "F***! I'm getting on my own nerves!"

As Jackson's accomplice in crime, Robert Carlyle lays on his hard man act with a vengeance, while there is priceless support from Ricky Tomlinson, Anna Keaveney and a gang of skinheads who repeatedly – and ill-advisedly – attempt to get the better of the underworld figures they encounter.

If the film lacks the edge and freshness of its forebears, it makes up for it with a cartoonish exuberance that is positively disarming.

James Cameron-Wilson

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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4 Stars; Recommended
THE PRINCESS DIARIES • released December 21

FULL DETAILS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THESE AND MORE IN THIS ISSUE

5 Stars; Excellent
THE BELIEVER Dec 07
BLUE VELVET Dec 14
KANDAHAR Nov 16 (ICA),
Dec 07 (Nationwide)

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À MA SOEUR Dec 07
HARRY POTTER & THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE Nov 16
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS Dec 07