Directed by Ronny Yu, starring Samuel L Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Rhys Ifans, Ricky Tomlinson.
If Samuel L Jackson is man enough to walk around in a skirt then he's certainly man enough to take on Liverpool's petty crime lords. Skirt + Liverpool = Jackson? An unlikely equation, but here America's premier bad-ass lends his well-toned muscle to the Brit 'gangsta' flick.
The 51st State tells the story of Elmo McElroy (Jackson), a kilt-wearing, golf-obsessed Yank who arrives in England to sell his narcotic wears to the highest bidder. McElroy, a chemist on the wrong side of the law, has found a formula to create the ultimate party drug. After double-crossing his boss – the Lizard - McElroy chooses Liverpool as the most obscure place to make a deal.
On his journey McElroy hooks up with a strange assortment of 'kookie' crooks including American-hating, petty thug Felix DeSouza (Carlyle) who, of course, becomes his closest ally. In another lucky coincidence Felix's ex-girlfriend, Dakota, who happens to be an assassin, is hired by the Lizard to take care of the rouge chemist. She finds herself back in Liverpool and back in the arms of the 'loveable' psychopath Felix.
Fascist thugs, drug lords, weird criminals and bent cops complete the formula adding a profusion of half-baked sub-plots to the 'fish-out-of-water' scenario. Described as a violent, action comedy this relatively big-budget affair attempts to put some umph and gloss back into Brit-gangster movies. Director Ronny Yu was brought in to fire it up Hong Kong style, but with so much contrived action this film isn't nearly as clever or humorous as the PR spin would have us believe.
The presence of Jackson of course adds kudos to the proceedings. He fills the screen, physically dwarfing all around him, especially little Robbie Carlyle. Carlyle doesn't give his best performance here, with Felix coming across like Begbie's scouse cousin on valium. However the supporting cast put in some good performances especially Ricky Tomlinson as Liverspool's residing Drug Baron and Rhys Ifans as a new wave, hippie criminal.
If the main selling point of a film is 'Samuel L Jackson in a skirt' you'd be forgiven for being a little sceptical. But if mindless violent action is what you're after you're bound to get some enjoyment out of it.