Starring: Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Chloe Sevigny, Crispin Glover, Omid Djalili, Jack Huston, Chriatian McKay

Director: Bernard Rose

Writer: Bernard Rose

Cinematography: Bernard Rose

Original Score: Philip Glass

Running Time: 121 mins.

Film based on life-stories are something of a minefield, often coming off as a little trite or failing that a bit too awards friendly, seemingly manufactured to win it’s actor portraying some tortured genius or member of the monarchy in order to nab themselves a golden baldie, it’s refreshing that Mr. Nice, based on the life story of drug smuggler/dealer Howard Marks is not heavy-handed enough to be seen as awards fodder but largely avoids falling into the trap of novelty thanks to Rhys Ifans in the role he was surely born to play, of course it helps that he is a long-time friend of Marks and has obviously had the time to get close to the man and understand what makes him tick rather than just wheeling out an impersonation or caricature!

So while Ifans raises the film’s credentials the rather episodic A to B storyline makes sure we are in entertaining rather than outstanding territory, beginning with Mark’s schooldays and following through to University in Oxford to Ireland and his dealings with the IRA as well as a foray into America, with a side helping of the issue of whether or not he acted in the interest of M16 as an undercover spy. It’s a lot to condense into one film which is why those biopic’s that focus on one strand of a persons life are the best but it is perhaps hard to understand why Mark’s is such an infamous character in the outcome if you cannot see his humble beginnings, so in that sense it is a film faced with a catch 22 situation from the off.

Inevitably some episodes in the man’s life work better in translation to screen than others, for example the decision to have Ifan’s play the schoolboy of the man is just plain odd giving the black and white opening scenes a rather comedic feel, however good an actor Ifans is he can’t pull off playing a 12-year-old! Thankfully things improve, but only after the uninspired and rather old hat trick of having the saturated colour fade into Technicolor when Marks experiences his first “joint”, a visual flourish you could chart from a mile off, and something you’d expect to find on a sunday night in Heartbeat!

Thankfully the change to Technicolor not only signals the apparently eye-opening powers of hashish but the introduction of a great plethora of support characters, the standout is quite clearly David Thewlis as Marks IRA  contact, highly amusing and feeling more like a throwback from the best stoner movie ever, The Big Lebowski, which brings me to the other saving grace of Mr. Nice…the fact that you really need not appreciate hashish or have ever smoke it to “get” the film and indeed the man himself unlike Pineapple Express for example that seems to have been made purely for those “under the influence”.

So while the plot meanders via jaunts to Iraq, America and Europe, it is Ifans that keeps you interested, making Marks seem like the man of the title, there’s very little not to like about the him and with the tone very much set to fun rather than lofty aspirations of critical plaudits is unlikely you will leave the cinema without a smile even if you’re not really any wise as to the mans depth or quite how he got away with his misdemeanours as long as he did.


Mr. Nice is fun yet shallow, rather than deep and meaningful, Ifans is the star here and on this evidence Howard mark’s really was nice…much like this film.