Sony Pictures' mid-level releasing division Screen Gems has acquired US rights to Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Production's action comedy The 51st State starring Samuel L Jackson and Robert Carlyle. Screen Gems plans to release the film in 2002.

Directed by Ronny Yu, The 51st State was financed by Alliance Atlantis with the UK's Film Consortium. Other distributors which have already bought the film include Gaga in Japan, New World in Spain, Metropolitan in France and Kinowelt in Germany. Alliance Atlantis will release the film in Canada and the UK through its wholly-owned subsidiary Momentum Pictures.

Shot on location last year in Liverpool, Los Angeles and Mexico, the film was produced by Andras Hamori, Seaton McLean (president of Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Production) and Jonathan Debin. First-time screenwriter Stel Pavlou wrote the script; David Pupkewitz and Malcolm Kohll are also producers and Mark Aldridge is co-producer. Jackson executive produced alongside AMG's Eli Selden, Julie Yorn and Stephanie Davis. AMG represents Yu, Jackson, Carlyle and co-star Emily Mortimer.

The film stars Jackson as a streetwise American chemist who heads to England to set up his last big deal - the introduction of a new designer drug to the European market. He becomes embroiled in a web of double-dealing on Liverpool's underworld rave scene. Among the co-stars are Rhys Ifans, Ricky Tomlinson, Sean Pertwee and Meat Loaf.

The deal was concluded by McLean and Clint Culpepper, executive vice president, acquisitions and production, at Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group.

The 51st State joins a future release slate at Screen Gems including The Mothman Prophecies with Richard Gere, Lone Star State Of Mind with Joshua Jackson and James King and John Carpenter's Ghost Of Mars with Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge.

Alliance Atlantis recently sold domestic rights to its Atom Egoyan-directed Ararat to Miramax Films; it has yet to seal domestic deals on other pictures including Owning Mahowny with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Minnie Driver, World Traveler with Billy Crudup and Julianne Moore and Neil Jordan's Double Down starring Nick Nolte.