Howard Marks, an Oxford student turned international drug smuggler who eventually is imprisoned and becomes a public figure, is a great subject for filmmaking. Charming, reasonably handsome and entertaining, Rhys Ifans is perfect for the role: his clumsy elegance befits a man who on the one hand knows exactly what he’s doing and on the other hand has no clue.
But something isn’t quite right with Rose’s biopic: namely, it could use a little more investigative depth.
We can’t help feeling skeptical about some of the events that are depicted but poorly explained. Apart from some entertaining sequences with Ifans pasted into real footage of Oxford and London in the 1970s, Mr. Nice is more a collage of funny moments, taking the audience on a rollercoaster ride through the experiences of a drug dealer, and less a realistic look at a fascinating man with a fascinating story.
We’re missing the nitty-gritty here, a little more in-depth analysis of plot and characters. How much did they know? Was Marks really connected to the MI6? Did Marks really happen to end up controlling 10 percent of the world’s hashish market in the 1970s basically by accident? The film doesn’t provide any answers, but it’s a good ride.
Mr Nice | Directed by Bernard Rose (UK, Spain 2010) with Rhys Ifans, Chloë Sevigny. Opens 23