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The 51st State (also known as Formula 51) is a 2001 British film produced by Focus Films Ltd. directed by Ronny Yu, written by Stel Pavlou, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Ricky Tomlinson, Sean Pertwee, Rhys Ifans, Meat Loaf and Robert Fyfe. Most of the filming was done on location in Liverpoolmarker.For its USmarker release, the film was renamed Formula 51. Both names reference the drug — POS 51, which the film centres around — that is apparently "fifty-one times more powerful than cocaine, fifty-one times more hallucinogenic than acid, fifty-one times more explosive than ecstasy."

The film was directed by Ronny Yu, perhaps best known for Freddy vs. Jason and Bride of Chucky. This film was the first script from writer Stel Pavlou. Since then, he has written Kochana Cafe, starring himself and Max Bollinger. The soundtrack featured popular artists such as PJ Harvey, Run DMC, Nelly, and Stephen Day.


It's 1971: Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson), fresh from graduating college with a degree in pharmacology, is pulled over by a patrol car and caught smoking marijuana. The police officer arrests him, thus preventing attaining employment as a pharmacologist. Fast forward to the present day: a drug lord called the Lizard (Meat Loaf) calls a meeting with his organization, hoping to sell a brand new substance invented by McElroy. The deal goes awry when McElroy, in a bid to escape from the Lizard's control, blows up the building. Most inside are killed, but the Lizard manages to escape. Revenge very much on his mind, he contacts Dakota (Emily Mortimer), a contract killer, to take care of McElroy. Although Dakota initially refuses, it emerges that she is in a great deal of debt to the Lizard, and he offers to `clear her slate` and give her a $250,000 bonus to complete the hit on McElroy.

McElroy heads for Liverpool in the hope of selling his product there. He arranges a meeting with Leopold Durant (Ricky Tomlinson), head of a local criminal organization, and Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle), an ex-hitman, is sent to escort McElroy in exchange for football tickets to the Liverpool v. Manchester United game.

At the meeting, McElroy makes his pitch, claiming that his product, POS 51, a synthetic that can be produced with minimal facilities, is 51 times as potent as ecstacy, opiates, amphetamines and cocaine. A second opinion from a local chemist confirms this and Durant is impressed.

However, while the deal is taking place, Dakota is watching through a rifle scope waiting for her chance to kill McElroy. But before she can pull the trigger, the Lizard calls, now with greed his main priority. He wants the formula for McElroy's drug. Everyone else at the meeting is fair game. Making their escape, DeSouza is shot in the rear on purpose; as it turns out, Dakota and DeSouza have a history. As they leave the hotel, the two are attacked by a bunch of tattooed skinheads, who have somehow found out about the drug. McElroy, however, makes short work of them armed with nothing but his golf clubs.

Detective Virgil Kane (Sean Pertwee) arrives on the scene and gives chase. He is soon lured into a game of chicken by McElroy, who escapes. Kane returns to the crime scene and strings up Durant on the bottom of a large cargo container. At this point it becomes obvious that Kane isn't entirely clean: he demands 50 percent of Durant's deal with McElroy. Unfortunately, upon releasing Durant, the cargo container is lowered rather fast, crushing and killing Durant in the process.

Now that his employer is dead, DeSouza and McElroy contacts Iki (Rhys Ifans), also a drug distributor, promising him the market if the price is right. McElroy and DeSouza make their way to a chemist to get the ingredients for POS 51. One of the drug's defining attributes is that it can be made with over-the-counter products, none of which yet appear on any government's banned substance list. They are followed by the skinheads, who are armed this time. However, McElroy isn't that dismayed at being captured, as the skinheads claim they have a lab to produce the drug. The lab turns out to be an Animal Testing Facility that the skinheads have broken into. McElroy makes two batches of the drug; one blue and one red. He claims that the red pill is the stronger version, and after he takes one, the skinheads try it. While they are waiting for the effect of the drug, McElroy spits out his red pill, demonstrating that he never swallowed it. He relates to DeSouza that its primary effect is that of a powerful laxative. McElroy and DeSouza leave after throwing a bag of toilet paper to the defecating skinheads.

The two visit Iki's rave club, where McElroy initiates his deal with the raver king and delivers the drug to the waiting crowd. The distribution is interrupted by Kane and a police raid. Dakota appears, and it is revealed that her real name is Dawn and that she and DeSouza were romantically involved. She captures McElroy and attempts to leave with him via the roof and the escape ladder. McElroy drops, twists and grabs her, suspending her over the edge of the roof. Having no choice, she strikes a deal with him. They escape.

Meanwhile, DeSouza is in police custody, being interviewed by Kane. The dirty cop wants in on their deal with Iki or he will get DeSouza on charges of possession of a firearm, to say the least. He arranges the time and the place, letting Kane know.

Meeting back up with McElroy and Dawn, they contact Iki. The venue is the Liverpool vs. Manchester United game, in a private viewing box. This time the deal is interrupted by the Lizard, who kills Iki and demands the formula to POS 51. The Lizard celebrates with a drink, as McElroy reveals the true nature of the drug - it's a placebo. When tests are run on the chemical, it looks like a drug and appears to have the effect it claims. But the ingredients cancel each other out, making it the "most expensive candy" in the world. Indeed, McElroy relates that POS stands for Power of Suggestion.

Kane interrupts the moment, just as McElroy's cocktail, ingested by the Lizard, takes effect. The cocktail contains a chemical that becomes explosive when it reaches a certain temperature; this is the same chemical McElroy used in his earlier attempt to leave his employment with the Lizard. Pulling an umbrella from McElroy's golf bag, DeSouza, McElroy and Dawn take cover behind it. All that can be said for the ensuing literal bloodbath is, as McElroy says, "Drugs. Always kill you in the end." Police arrive and arrest Kane as the three make their escape.

The three divvy up the spoils. Dawn and DeSouza settle down together and McElroy arrives at a castle. The castle is owned by the McElroy clan. After claiming the castle as his own (after saying that his ancestor was a slave to the McElroy clan), Elmo putts a golf ball and sheds his clothing, declaring "Elmo's in the house!"

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The DVD commentary reveals that the script was originally written with Laurence Fishburne in mind, sometime before Samuel L. Jackson became a star.

References to other films

(The relevancy of this section is under dispute.)

Samuel L. Jackson plays Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels. The chemist who tests his drugs in the UK hotel scene is played by Angus MacInnes, who played Gold Leader in the original Star Wars. This is mentioned in the audio commentary on the DVD.

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