Mr Nice (2010)

Starring: Rhys Ifans, Chloë Sevigny, David Thewlis, Omid Djalili, Crispin Glover, Ilsa Pataky, Jack Huston, Andrew Tiernan

Directed by: Bernard Rose

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Rhys Ifans as Howard Marks, aka Mr Nice

Whether infamous dope drug smuggler Howard 'Mr Nice' Marks really deserves his reputation as the world's most lovable villain is perhaps debatable. But certainly this affable Brit flick biopic does little to tarnish his carefully constructed public image.

For many criminals, 'Mr Nice' could seem an ironic title for an autobiography. In the case of Mr Marks, it seems fairly accurate.

Rhys Ifans was born to play the Welsh working class lad made good/bad, a cult hero of almost Guevara-like status for pot smoking students across the nation. With his shaggy locks and craggy features, Ifans is Howard Marks (although if Alice Cooper is looking for someone to play himself in a movie, he could do a lot worse…)

His hoarse, cannabis-croaky voice guides us leisurely from a geeky childhood in a dreary, black and white rural Wales to the dreaming spires and innocently debauched college room orgies of Oxford, where our hero takes his first toke and the world drifts beautifully into Technicolor, Wizard of Oz style.

A temporary sober spell as a clean-living teacher is doomed to failure, and next thing he's hopping across borders with thousands of pounds worth of soft drugs in the back of his car. Perilously balancing IRA connections, Pakistani associates and even deals with MI6 against a beautiful partner (Chloë Sevigny) and happy home life, Marks' life is certainly not short on drama, as a perhaps slightly over-long running time attests.

Rhys Ifans and Chloë Sevigny and  in Mr Nice

In the tradition of all great drug biopics (Scarface, Blow). Mr Nice matches marvellous period styling with rollercoaster highs and lows; bundles of cash, lashings of champagne and endless dope smoking with courtroom drama and prison misery. True, some of the shots shoehorning Ifans' silhouette into genuine period footage jar, but the transition from kitchen sink monochrome to orange-tinged '60s colour vision to grainy '70s then sharp '80s filming works extremely well.

Throw in a possessed performance from David Thewlis as deranged IRA soldier Jim McCann and great support from Omid Djalili, channelling Imran Khan as posh Pakistani drug producer Malik, plus a tongue-in-cheek script that stays just the right side of both sentimentality and sensation and only occasionally labours the 'hey kids, dope should, like, totally be legalised' point (hence the film's 18 certificate) and you have a biopic that's every bit as easy going, appealing and likeable as its central protagonist. Nice.

  • Share on Tumblr