The 51st State (2001)

logoDirector: Ronny Yu

Writer: Stel Pavlou (Screenplay)

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Emily Mortimer, Meat Loaf, Sean Pertwee, Rhys Ifans, Ricky Tomlinson


Plot: An American master chemist plans to score big on a once in a lifetime drug deal. All does not go as planned and he is soon entangled in a web of deceit.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Loud Fowl Mouthed Drug Film


Story: The 51st State starts in 1971 California where Elmo McElroy (Jackson) getting caught smoking weed losing he recently receive diploma in pharmacy. Move forward 30 years Elmo works as a drug maker for The Lizard (Meat Loaf). We learn that Dakota (Mortimer) owes The Lizard a debt which she pays off with her assassin skills. Elmo has taken it upon himself to escape The Lizard but he doesn’t get the job done, this leads to The Lizard giving Dakota a chance to clean her slate for good by sending her to kill Elmo and the drug dealer who never turned up for the deal Durant (Tomlinson).

Next we meet Felix DeSouza (Carlyle) a fellow dealer who is happy to live in Manchester while cheering for Liverpool putting him into conflict when he doesn’t need too. Felix has to deliver Elmo to Durant to help with the latest deal as Elmo brings his product to England but to keep things interesting Dakota just so happens to be Felix’s ex make the assassination attempt difficult due to the personal side.

It is up to Felix and Elmo to try and work out a deal in the city before the time runs out with Dakota trying to track down Elmo to for The Lizard. All this while determined detective Kane (Pertwee) want in on the action and to stop the deal taking place. All these factors lead to the final outcome of the film when we find out just who is playing who.

The 51st State is a film that really made me want to switch it off very early because the needless amount of swearing and aggressive toning of the language just seemed to be there because someone couldn’t think of any real words. I wasn’t the most interested in this film because of the heavy drug use either because I feel drugs over use makes people out to stupid because not everyone needs drugs but the films seems to make the point everyone does. After getting through the opening half of the film and getting used the poorly written script the story does unfold to be quite interesting. We get plenty of twists and turn along the way and the final twist does actually make you smile because of how Elmo has handled it all. (5/10)


Actor Review


Samuel L Jackson: Elmo McElroy is the most wanted chemist in the world of drugs, he decides to leave his old market behind and take his work to England where he gets stuck in the middle of a battle for power between the drug lords. Samuel does end up giving us a performance you would expect but his image if something that will shock with his kilt. (7/10)


Robert Carlyle: Felix DeSouza is the hot head Liverpool fan who works for a drug lord in the city but when things get out of hand he has to help settle the deal for Elmo and his price tickets to Liverpool v Manchester United. Robert gives the performance you would expect from the British star. (7/10)


Emily Mortimer: Dakota Parker is the deadly beautiful assassin who is working off a debt from The Lizard, she has history with Felix but is working on catching Elmo for The Lizard. Emily does a good job as the assassin with a past. (7/10)


Meat Loaf: The Lizard is the American drug lord that has been double crossed by Elmo but he isn’t taking it lightly when he sends his best assassin to bring him back to complete the business deal they had going down. Meat Loaf does end up giving a performance you wouldn’t expect from the musician. (7/10)


Rhys Ifans: Iki is the local dealer who can help get the deal done in Liverpool once everything gets out of hand. He is playing both sides because he is the go to guy in the city. Rhys is one of the best over the top crazy performers in the acting work and he shows why here. (7/10)


Support Cast: The 51st State has a supporting cast that includes plenty of different characters involved in the drug world that all help motive our characters.


Director Review: Ronny Yu – Ronny does try to give us a crime caper but does he need to just have the characters swearing for the sake of it. (5/10)


Action: The 51st State has a couple of fights but most of the action is almost happening. (5/10)

Crime: The 51st State puts us in a drug world well giving us a mixture of colourful characters. (8/10)

Thriller: The 51st State doesn’t pull you in as much as it should because we think everything is done and dusted early on and by the time it has changed we are not sure what to think. (6/10)

Settings: The 51st State uses the setting of Liverpool very well making everything feel like a normal day with the crime happening around it. (8/10)

Suggestion: The 51st State is one to try, I think if you are a fan of the genre you will enjoy but otherwise it might end up feeling like too much. (Try It)


Best Part: Final deal.

Worst Part: Too much needless aggressive swearing.


Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: Early on in the credits.


Oscar Chances: No

Budget: $28 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Tagline: In a world of shady characters and dirty deals, this is just business as usual.


Overall: This is a typical over aggressive drug filled film that has a twist that makes it more enjoyable.

Rating 40


  1. Awesome review! I seriously wonder what happened to Ronny Yu. He made some really great HK films in the 90s then it feels like the recent ones have been kinda meh. I mean, what happened to The Bride With White Hair and The Phantom Lover days or even Great Pretender. But maybe I’ll give this one a go just for the decent cast 🙂

      • He did. I mean, Freddy vs Jason is good fun but its not like quality film. I just think he had better luck when he stayed in Hong Kong film. Haha! But then, I’ve been wanting to watch Saving General Yang and never got around to it yet.

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