The 51st State (18)

Review by James Adlam

STARRING Samuel L Jackson and Robert Carlyle and directed by Hong Kong action film king Ronny Yu, there are so many good elements to The 51st State that it promises to be a great film, but unfortunately fails to live up to that promise as well as it might.

It's the story of Elmo McElroy (Jackson), a streetwise American master chemist who heads to England to set up the deal of his lifetime - introducing a new designer drug, POS51, to the European market.

He soon becomes embroiled in a web of double-dealing as he's escorted around Liverpool by loud-mouthed local hood Felix de Souza (Carlyle) who happens to hate all things American.

They are forced to team up and forget their differences in an action-filled story littered with car chases, stunts and shoot-outs, leading to a literally explosive finale in an executive box at Anfield Stadium.

The cocktail of international talent includes Meat Loaf as the gangster boss McElroy thought he'd blown up in LA, Ricky Tomlinson as a Scouse underworld king, Rhys Ifans as a yoga-loving rival gangster and Emily Mortimer as Dakota, the lethal love interest, a deadly hit-woman.

Jackson succeeds in embodying the epitome of cool in his usual inimitable fashion, while the other performers are given free rein to go ludicrously over the top, especially Meat Loaf as the Lizard, a permanently enraged LA gang boss who talks like Huggy Bear.

The direction is crisp and fast, but somehow the whole film doesn't hang together as well as it could.

The filmmakers do not appear to have decided what sort of movie they were trying to make - it has elements of a Lock Stock-style gangster flick, or a buddy movie, or a romantic comedy, but fails to convince entirely as any of these.

It's not thought through properly - as an example, Jackson wears a kilt throughout. The reason for this is sort of explained right at the end, but it has no bearing on the rest of the story and is purely an irrelevant gimmick.