A witty, profane, hugely violent action comedy, "The 51st State" takes a peculiarly American genre, a huge American star, and sticks them in Liverpool with bloody but entertaining results.
Jackson plays Elmo McElroy, a kilt-wearing, golf-obsessed illegal chemist who arrives in Liverpool to clinch a $20 million drugs deal with local baron Ricky Tomlinson. Unfortunately, his old Stateside boss, the Lizard (Loaf), has sent Emily Mortimer's skilled assassin after him. Teaming up with Yank-hating small-time hood Felix De Souza (Carlyle), McElroy must seal the deal before anyone can off him, sidestepping local skinheads and Sean Pertwee's bent copper along the way.
Sound silly? Well, of course it is. But that's largely its strength - here's a British flick gleefully unconcerned with plausibility, yet just as determined to entertain you. Writer Stel Pavlou's Tarantino-esque dialogue is good, but it's Hong Kong director Ronny Yu who makes it work. Splicing the action together with his trademark zeal, frenetically pounding the story onwards, Yu doesn't give the audience time to think, let alone pick holes.
It's all a little overwhelming in the opening 20 minutes, but once it settles down, "The 51st State" becomes quite irresistible. The culture clash interplay between Jackson and Carlyle is a joy, with Jackson relishing some killer one-liners while strutting round Merseyside in a kilt. Why? Best not to ask. Just enjoy.