'Mr Nice' is based on the bestselling memoir by international drug trafficker and pothead Howard Marks. Adapted for the big screen by director Bernard Rose ('Ivansxtc', 'Immortal Beloved'), it charts the rise, fall and emancipation of a dubious but charming individual. But just like many drug-related films, some of the drama feels like a rehash of what has gone before.
Marks (Ifans) started out as a student at Oxford, but ended up being one of Europe's most notorious drug dealers. He appears to drift through life, practically falling into drug dealing by accident. Applying the same brilliance and ingenuity that got him into Oxford, he creates a hugely lucrative international smuggling enterprise and solicits the assistance of eccentric IRA leader McCann (Thewlis) to run hashish through Shannon Airport. In addition, he wastes no time in exploiting his fluke contact with an MI5 associate, McMillan (McKay), who recruits him as a spy.
Having decided to develop his business in the booming US market, Marks finds a readymade partner in over-the-top libertine Ernie Combs (Glover). Despite several arrests and attempts to sort his life out, Marks always returns to drug smuggling, much to the unhappiness of his wife Judy (Sevigny) and family.
Rarely a leading man, Ifans' laidback nature and his likeability carry this film. However, it is extremely unbelievable, and almost bordering on the ludicrous, to watch him play Marks as an 18-year-old all the way through to recent times. Sevigny's British accent is atrocious, and at times it disappears completely, just like her acting ability. Comedy is proved by Djalili's character Makik and McCann's insistence on using preposterous code words to act as a smokescreen (hashish becomes "Nordle"). But although the running jokes make a welcome change from the dull elements of the script, they reduce the strength of the family story somewhat.
'Mr Nice' is occasionally aimless and repetitive, with some perplexing scenes where it's unclear where anyone is, geographically speaking. Rose tries to pack far too much into a two-hour running time, making the film feel like a series of unrelated events right up until the last few scenes.
An incredible life story, just don't expect too many highs.