Mr Nice

Bernard Rose’s career has included urban horror (‘Candyman’), historical biopic (‘Immortal Beloved’) and Hollywood satire (‘Ivansxtc’). Perhaps the eclecticism of Howard Marks’s life appealed: the UK’s most notorious fugitive dope smuggler-turned-counterculture mascot has transgressed legal, territorial, social and ethical boundaries for decades. Even so, this adaptation of Marks’s autobiography – a student staple throughout the land – struggles to capture the sheer breadth of his life.

From the Welsh Valleys to Oxford’s spires, European autobahns to Afghan poppy fields, MI6 contacts to IRA comrades – Rose’s script can’t be accused of staying put, even if it leaves out the East End gangsters and Filipino brothels of the book. And you can understand why he opts to make his hero the eye of this storm, eschewing Marks’s series of aliases for a more consistent persona. But Rhys Ifans’s performance is perhaps too consistent: whether playing young or middle aged, he maintains a lopsided, mischievous ease.

Rather than riotous picaresque, the result is more like a meandering shaggy dog story. Rose’s gimmicks have limited success: Marks’s pre-dope life is in black and white, and he’s often interpolated, Forrest Gump style, into archive. Any gains in authenticity, however, are countered by the technique’s often lacklustre execution. There’s diverting support from David Thewlis, who gives IRA captain and Marks accomplice Jim McCann a sense of knockabout danger; Chloe Sevigny, like most biopic WAGs, has little to do but fret as Howard’s partner, and does so in a dodgy English accent.

Release details

Rated: 18
Release date: Friday October 8 2010
Duration: 121 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Bernard Rose
Cast: Rhys Ifans
Chloë Sevigny
David Thewlis

Average User Rating

3.1 / 5

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Paul

Better than expected and a fun story of perhaps a past and forgotten world. More sympathetic towards Howard now than before.