certain ways, Mr. Nice is reminiscent of a British Goodfellas
or Blow, and yet in other ways it is so much more. Based on the life
and times of infamous British drug kingpin Howard Marks and featuring an
astonishing performance by Welsh actor/singer Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill,
Pirate Radio, the upcoming Spider-Man movie), the movie tells a
story that we’ve seen before and yet tells it in a quirky and different
Occasionally it seems like a bit of a whitewash – not a huge surprise since
it was based on Marks’ autobiography and the guy was also involved behind
the scenes and has become a friend of Ifans’ – and yet in other ways it is a
fascinating look at the drug trade. And, not completely by coincidence, it
is also a fairly strong argument for at the very least the partial
legalization of certain types of drugs.
that I expect this was the main concern of the filmmakers when creating the
film – they were just showing a very cool and personable man who just
happened to become one of the world’s largest importer/exporters of
marijuana and hashish – but an interesting side effect of this story is that
you are often wondering, “Who is really getting so badly harmed here?”
Certainly not Marks, who through drugs was able to find first sex, then
love, then financial independence. And yet, of course, he is eventually
forced to pay for his cavalier beliefs about personal freedoms.
that the guy wasn’t amazingly good at evading this punishment for a long
time before finally being brought to justice.
title, Mr. Nice, is not a nickname for the drug kingpin (though he
was, indeed, very nice), it was actually one of his aliases (pronounced
“Niece” like the French Riviera city) gained through a chance meeting with a
Mr. Donald Nice at a tiny pub.
how does a nerdy middle-classed Welsh kid turn into one of the world’s
largest drug dealers, particularly when he never had any aspirations to
anything but being a teacher?
We’ll never know 100% for sure, because the real Marks is a savvy self-mythologizer,
but you always wonder how much of it is really true and how much of it is
embellished for effect. One thing we do know pretty much for sure, it was
mostly economic. Marks was relatively happy as a teacher, but eventually
when an opportunity rose by chance through an old Oxford buddy, he realized
that he could make a hell of a lot more money running drugs.
course, he was a bit of a gentleman drug dealer. If you are looking for Joe
Pesci asking threateningly “Do I amuse you?” or Tony Montana screaming “Say
hello to my little friend!” you may be in the wrong
fact, the craziest parts of Mr. Nice occur when Marks hooks up with
an unstable IRA bigwig (David Thewlis) to help move his product.
of Mr. Nice is about the highs and the lows – the nights in Majorca,
the partying at Studio 54, the beautiful women, and eventually the crash
when Marks was arrested in 1988 and spent seven years in US prison.
stated before, Ifans is a wonderful cipher as the title character,
impossibly cool and yet at the same time truly captivating. Thewlis goes a
bit over the top occasionally, but it is service of his character. Sadly,
the wonderful Chloë Sevigny is rather wasted in the underwritten role of
Marks’ supportive second wife.
movie starts and ends with Marks on stage, doing a speaking engagement, as
he has since transformed his notoriety into a second career as a memoirist,
talk show gadfly and public speaker. “Are there any plain-clothes
policemen in the house?” he asks his appreciative crowd, who whoot and
holler in derision at the possibility.
Mr. Nice shows
that perhaps this is Howard Marks’ finest achievement. He has changed
felony drug running into performance art.
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: June 6, 2011.