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October 22, 2002 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-22

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Tuesday
October 22, 2002
michigandaity.com/arts
rnae@michigandaily.com

RTSh~=J~

5

Duo's chemistry saves 'Formula'

Surving the storm, Libbets Casey has never looked better.

By John Laughlin
Daily Arts Writer
Sex, drugs ... and excrement? Mix these ingredients together,
add Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle and Meatloaf, shake well
and you have "Formula 51." This is the latest film from director
Ronny Yu ("Bride of Chucky") whose fastpaced action style mim-
ics that of Guy Richie's "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels"
and "Snatch,' thus the film is all but an original "formula."
Jackson plays brilliant chemist Elmo McElroy whose life turns
to ruin upon his graduation from The University
of California when he is busted for possession of
marijuana in 1971. Flash forward thirty years:
McElroy has lost the fro for some stylish braids *
and now works for the drug lord "The Lizard" FORM
(Meatloaf, "Fight Club") who refers to himself in
the third person. At Shov
McElroy has recently discovered a brand new Qua
drug that is highly more potent than coke, ecstasy Scree
or heroin and attempts to kill his bosses and sell
his euphoric POS 51 to another boss in Liverpool, England for the
tidy sum of 20 million dollars. The Lizard turns out to have sur-
vived the explosion set by McElroy and puts out a contract on him
to be carried out by the beautiful but deadly Dakota (Emily Mor-
timer, "Notting Hill").
Felix, (Carlyle, "The Full Monty") an errand boy for the Liver-
pool boss, screws up the pickup job with McElroy when, while
playing a prank in an opposing soccer pub, he leaves the chemist
behind. When Felix finally hooks up with McElroy he is all but
pleased and demands to see his boss so that he can get his deal
under way. The deal goes awry when the boss doesn't give McEl-
roy the agreed amount and Dakota, under new orders from The
Lizard, wipes the room clean - leaving Felix and McElroy alive.
The two flee the cops and brawl with some skinheads who
want McElroy's formula, only to land themselves on a garbage
scow. Dakota follows them, but at a distance. As it would turn out,
Dakota also happens to be Felix's ex-girlfriend: Thus, the love
interest is introduced.
McElroy and Felix now need abuyer and find one named Iki
(Rhys Ifans). An eccentric club owner and drug lord, he now also
plays the go-between for Felix and Dakota. lki demands samples
of POS 51, so McElroy must find a lab in the next 24 hours, which
the skinheads they ran from happen to supply.
POS 51 is created by using only legal, over-the-counter ingre-

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wc
lit
en C

dients; this is why everyone is stepping over everyone else in an
attempt to gain the formula (a la "Snatch"). In a childish, but
hilarious laxative scene, Felix and McElroy make their escape
from the lab. The film now gives rise to chases and meetings -
building up to the climax in the executive suite at a soccer game.
"Formula 51" contains all the necessary elements of good
wholesome entertainment: sex, drugs, violence and a good shit
scene. The film succeeds in delivering an enjoyable action come-
dy, whether some of the elements may have been borrowed.
The cast works well together and all dilemmas both moral and
otherwise are nicely resolved in the end. Jackson
and Carlyle have good on-screen chemistry and
make an otherwise lame film quite enjoyable. The
* one main flaw with "Formula" is the way in which
LA 51 it chooses to close. Instead of simply ending and
rolling to credits, the film adds an addendum
ase and which informs "so and so lived happily ever after,"
y 16 etc. dumbing down the viewer and leaving one
Gems with the feeling of directorial incompetence. A
good director should wrap up all his ends nicely
without adding text - the text from this film only takes away
from all that took place before it. The viewer can assume that
Felix and Dakota will stay together and it is better left unsaid as
to why Jackson wears a kilt throughout the whole film.
The formula for this film includes a great cast, and this vital
ingredient is what saves it. Shooting in Liverpool only adds to the
flavor, plusone can never go wrong with Samuel L. Jackson.

Both 'Abandon' and cast visually
* attractive and devoid of depth

By Stephanie Kapera
Daily Arts Writer
There are three or four scary
moments in Stephen Gaghan's new psy-
chological thriller, "Abandon." In one of
them, Katie Holmes looks for a book in
the stacks of her university's library,

a twist that is surprisingly good yet not
worth the preceeding boredom.
You'd expect to see a film with at
least a little bit of excitement from
Gaghan, who wrote the screenplay for
"Traffic," but his latest effort is often
dull and structurally awkward. One of
the biggest problems is that it starts off

only to meet the eye of
someone else looking at
her from the other side of
the shelf. This scene felt
familiar, and although it
took a while, this film crit-
ic finally realized where it
had appeared before:
there's a scene just like it
between Julia Stiles and
Heath Ledger in "Ten
Things I Hate About You,";

**

ABANDON
At Showcase and
Quality 16
Paramount

as a collegiate art-house
style drama. In one scene
near the beginning, Katie
and her friends are
drunk, lying on a bed
with a strobe light flash-
ing on their faces. Katie
remarks wistfully that
"Everything is so perfect
right now. Why can't it
always be like this?"and
looks on her friends' faces

and the fact

the drugged

that I remember this is even scarier than
all the scary moments in "Abandon,"
combined.
"Abandon" is about the creatively
named Katie Burke (Holmes), an
aggressive senior at an unnamed Ivy-
caliber school who is under a lot of pres-
sure finishing her thesis on the Global
Wireless revolution, and interviewing
for a highly competitive job at an ultra-
successful media corporation. Into the
mix comes Detective Wade Handler
(Benjamin Bratt), a recovering alcoholic
whose first post-rehab assignment is to
find Katie's missing ex-boyfriend,
Embry (Charlie Hunnam), an egotistical
trust-fund baby who disappeared two
years earlier and hasn't been heard from
since. Katie soon starts seeing Embry
around campus, which sparks a collec-
tion of flashbacks and filler scenes that
make the 99 minutes of film feel even
more tedious. It is only during the last
half-hour or so that anything thriller-like
even begins to happen, culminating with

reflect this feeling, which looks more
like an ecstasy-induced delirium than a
drunken stupor. It is things like this that
Gaghan just gets wrong; he tries, but the
result is always a little off.
The film is well shot, with many
blues and grays creating a dream-like
mood, yet the emotional tone never real-
ly surfaces powerfully enough to match
the quiet fluidity of the camera work.
Part of the problem might be due to the'
flashbacks, which chop up the film's
emotional moments so that we never
really feel any highs or lows. For exam-
ple, a sex scene between Wade and
Katie seems to come out of nowhere.
They are sitting on the stoop discussing
what their fathers do for a living, and
suddenly, Katie takes Wade's hand and
leads him into her house, into her bed,
and before you know it, Gaghan cuts to
the "afterwards" shot of the two of them
lying together, having cutely profound
post-sex dialogue. Gaghan seems to
think that the sexual tension between the

two actors is implicit, yet their shift into
the bedroom just feels awkward and
unexplained.
Holmes's character is the anti-Joey
Potter, and she plays the confident, neu-
rotic college student with poise and a
good deal of skill. Despite her lazy eye,
which wanders strangely in close-ups,
her sallow face with its deer-in-the-
headlights look fares well as the focal
point of a film like this one. Her best
scenes are with the charismatic Hun-
nam, who has a feverish enthusiasm that
pairs well with her eyelash-batting vul-
nerability. Yet she shows her range by
shifting easily into playing the confident
young professional. In a job-interview
scene, she gets sharp dialogue and is
impressively irreverent. Yet the quick
writingis undermined by the emotional
drama Gaghan feels compelled to infuse
his film with. The result is like trying to
turn a hamburger into a donut by inject-
ing strawberry jelly in the middle.
Bratt is barely worth mentioning,
since his hair is too long and he is prac-
tically invisible compared to the more
attractive Hunnam. Katie's friends, espe-
cially Samantha (Zooey Deschanel,
"Almost Famous") are good, yet their
scenes also contribute to the muted
thrills the film serves up. Gaghan just
delivers too much "Dawson's Creek"
and not enough terror, which is why,
when the fear factor finally kicks in, it's
too late. The film is a blotchy muddle of
art, drama and psychological thriller,
which seems like an ambitious combi-
nation but ultimately collapses on itself,
flailing at the end with a climax that's
exciting but un-earned.
"Abandon" is one movie that would
send film buff Dawson Leary running,
not walking, out of the theater and
straight over to Joey's.

courtesy of Screen Gems

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