Formula 51

Missing: plot, dialogue, characters.
  • Review Date: May 14, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know


Intense and very graphic violence, characters killed.


Vulgar references, steamy but non-explicit sex scene.


Extremely strong language, constant profanity.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters are drug dealers

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has extreme graphic violence and non-stop profanity. The language used includes many exceptionally vivid British swear words, the literal meaning of which may not be familiar to some users. The characters are drug dealers (who generally themselves don't use drugs), and there's a generally lax attitude toward substance abuse of all kinds. There's one sex scene that is moderately explicit and brief non-sexual nudity.

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What's the story?

In FORMULA 51, Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson) is a pharmacist by training who never got his license because of a drug conviction. So, he spent 30 years cooking up concoctions for a very mean drug dealer (rock star Meat Loaf) who not only speaks of himself in the third person but when doing so actually calls himself "The Lizard." McElroy has an idea for one last big deal to buy his freedom. All he has to do is blow up all of his current customers and sell his latest invention, a drug 51 times more powerful than any ever invented before while avoiding the beautiful assassin who is trying to kill him.

Is it any good?


This Formula is missing some key ingredients – like plot, characters, and dialogue. What it does have is the undeniably cool Samuel L. Jackson (who co-produced) in a kilt, fending off attackers with golf clubs and one funny joke. Unfortunately, Jackson also fends off other attackers by inducing severe intestinal distress. And the joke is stolen from Pulp Fiction, in a much better scene. There's also lots and lots of violence and profanity, though none profane or otherwise that are particularly witty or memorable.

Director Ronny Yu brings out the tired old Hong Kong camera tricks. Every other scene is either sped up or slowed down. He wastes the talented Robert Carlyle and Emily Mortimer. They play characters with different motivations and even different personalities from scene to scene. They do whatever moves the story forward, which means whatever will cause the most destruction.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how McElroy developed the plan that would allow him to achieve his dream (which is not fully revealed until the credit sequence). Why was that dream so important to him? Speaking of dreams, they might like to talk about what it was about this material that made Samuel L. Jackson want to produce and star in it.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 18, 2002
DVD release date:February 4, 2003
Cast:Emily Mortimer, Robert Carlyle, Samuel L. Jackson
Director:Ronny Yu
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence, language, drug content and some sexuality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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