Formula 51. Ronny Yu. A cross-channel action/comedy in the Guy Ritchie mold, Formula 51 (originally bearing the better title The 51st State, in condescending reference to England) basically plunks bad-ass Samuel L. Jackson down in rainy Liverpool with a drug to sell and various unkempt fellows with rough accents and guns on his tail. One of these, Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle, at his most laid-back since The Full Monty), ultimately becomes the obligatory mismatched sidekick. This isn't exactly a new routine for Jackson, who's been paired up in similar situations with everyone from Emilio Estevez to Bruce Willis, but here's the thing: This time ...he's wearing a kilt. And that, as the poet once said, makes all the difference. On the tail of our heroes are hitwoman Emily Mortimer, scaly bastard Meat Loaf, over-the-top arms dealer Rhys Ifans and many more. Fans of Hong Kong-style action will recognize more of that tradition in Formula 51 than in any of director Yu's previous U.S. efforts (Bride of Chucky, for instance). It's a formula movie all right, but a fun one. Opens October 18 at multiple locations. (LYT)
Les Destinées. Olivier Assayas. In turn-of-the-century France, a minister (Charles Berling) scandalizes his tiny Protestant community by divorcing his wife (Isabelle Huppert) and falling in love with a newly arrived young woman (Emmanuelle Béart). Their existence is briefly idyllic, until he is called back to run his family's china factory in Limoges. Between business and The Great War and the Depression, their lives slip by before they know it. This conventional three-hour family saga -- adapted from a novel by '30s writer Jacques Chardonne -- is uncharacteristic of director Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Late August, Early September), whose best work has been relentlessly contemporary. Les Destinées has a leisurely, contemplative pace without ever growing boring. Still, at the end, we are left somehow empty. For all the time we spend with these people, we never really get inside them. Both the performances and the visual style keep us aloof, and the procession of details and events seem so evenly weighted, so deliberately anti-melodramatic that, in the long run, they don't add up to much, emotionally or otherwise. Huppert fans should be advised that her role, though dramatically important, is relatively brief. Opens October 18 at the Tivoli. (AK)
Mad Love. Vicente Aranda. Opens October 18 at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
The Ring. Gore Verbinski. Opens October 18 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.