(Bernard Rose, 2010, UK)
Charting the fluctuating rise and fall of charismatic drug smuggler Howard Marks, Mr. Nice has an appealing premise and a promising cast yet contains minimal exposition into this notorious character, whose autobiography the film is based on. The film suffers from an overly long runtime and a distracted narrative, which depicts this man’s eventful life but fails to explore him in meticulous detail. I never knew who Howard Marks was before the film, and unfortunately I’m still fairly oblivious.
Mr. Nice focuses on the life of the intelligent Welshman, whose arrival at Oxford University in the 1970’s prompted his illicit affair with narcotics and beautiful women, eventually leading him to partake in risky overseas drug-runs and continued altercations with the law. Mainly shot in and around England, the film features a very distinct visual style which deposits characters back to their original 70’s settings with some post-production trickery, which although lends the film a certain authenticity, is overused and painfully obvious. The use of green screen is widely apparent, though was this intentional? It’s never really clear. The plot also contains some recognisable supporting players in the forms of Crispin Glover, Omid Djalili and David Thewlis, with the latter representing possibly the best thing about the film, playing a vulgar, madcap terrorist with a penchant for uncouth sight gags and pornography.
As the enigmatic Marks, Rhys Ifans is uncharacteristically dull, looking the part but failing to fully engage as a man torn between his burgeoning family and his addictions. The dreary voice-over is also of little use; it is as ineffective as it is incoherent, skimming over important facts in favour of tedious sub-plots and uninteresting characters. At some stage in his life, and indeed the film, Marks became an informant for MI6, but this relatively important plot point is neither given much predominance or fleshed out properly, rendering its importance during some of the courtroom sequences wane and undeveloped.
Although competently shot and interestingly interspersed with stock footage, the film is visually accomplished but inescapably boringly, never really deciding whether it wants to be an in-depth biopic or an all-out comedy, all the while failing to be either.
- Mr. Nice, 2010. [Film] Directed by Bernard Rose, UK: Independent.