I don't know why, but for some reason I was under the impression that Xhibit had the lead role in this movie. Turns out it was Samuel Jackson, and that's great, I couldn't think of a more fitting main character!
I remember watching this movie on VHS a great many years ago, and watching it again, a few of the scenes (especially towards the end) ring a bell, but fortunately they do so in retrospect as not to spoil the rest of the movie for me. Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm certain the ending was a happy one though... was the back of my mind correct? No spoilers. :)
As for the plot, it's about a drug, a '51st state of mind', a drug that is 51 times stronger than cocaine, which exists solely in the head of the rather controversial main character Elmo McElroy, the only black dude I've ever seen wearing a quilt (at the end of the movie it is mentioned that no one ever found out why he wore a quilt... but considering his name, is it really that strange?).
His name brings another consideration into mind, the one that he and the secondary main character Felix DeSouza (a very patriotic anti-Yankee, Liverpool supporter with a hitwoman as ex-girlfriend) and him aren't too different after all, even though the one seems to hate Yanks as much as the other hates Brits. Well maybe not really the same, but there's a lot of cultural crashing going on at the start of the movie, and it keeps going for quite some time until they team up and become best (but still a bit distant) buddies.
Another fun thing about this movie is Meat Loaf making an appearance as the main villain. I wouldn't have known it was him unless I peeked at the IMDB cast list, but as it turns out he's a pretty intense actor! Emily Mortimer appearing as an assassin seems like another granted choice, considering her role as assassin in other known movies. So to sum it up: the actors are an awesome bunch of people and strongly enforce the at times normal, at times rather bizarre, plotline of the movie. Some things you'll expect, somethings not, but it's a constantly violent and likewise entertaining voyage through the slums (and other parts of) England.
The 51st State is an interesting title, since it doesn't only refer to the drug, but also to England being 'just the 51st state of the US' as the Lizard so humbly puts it at the end. So it seems the movie is a bit more symbolic than you'd expect. You can watch it just for the action, for the grim comedy, or you can take in the little details that form some sort of secondary layer of intrigue. Definitely one of Samuel Jacksson's less known, better movies. Good watch.
rated 3/5: not bad