By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
You probably know the name of Howard Marks, or the title of this film, from his best-selling autobiography. Or, if dig his kind of scene, you’d know that Howard Marks is now really popular among cannabis supporters, from tales of his epic life, his popular stand-up shows, or perhaps thanks to his collaboration with the producers of different marijuana varieties and to his campaigns for the legalization of soft drugs.
Mr. Nice the film tries to boil that epic life, from drug smuggler to high profile prisoner to media savvy activist to cult figure, all into one film. And it does a pretty quality job of it to boot.
Mr. Nice, in the flesh
The subject matter of Howard Marks’s life is plenty enough to carry a narrative film on its own, and the performance of Rhys Ifans brings him to life perfectly. This is a brash, unrepentant true crime story which doesn’t skimp on the details, featuring an absolute character, told in his own voice, and just like his book, there’s significant entertainment value here.
What really elevates this film, though, is its construction. Director Bernard Rose throws a stunning array of styles and techniques at the screen to liven up the story even further, and keeps the past fast and fun, all set to another perfect Phillip Glass score.
Using Ifans for every step of Marks’s life, including high school boy, is a bit of a stretch, but defendable as a comic choice. The comedy is one area the film sometimes falters, though, thinking it’s more clever than it really is. And nope, I really didn’t need to see David Thewlis’s dickhead, thanx.
No, David, not even when you give me those puppy dog eyes.
The one area that this film does ring a bit insincere is when it tackles the marijuana legalization debate. It’s preaching to the choir, and not particularly effectively. The points often come off as awkward asides (like when a judge makes sure to mention how, even if he heavily disagrees with the law, he must uphold it before sentencing Marks), and something about Marks’s mixing with the likes of Afghan warlords and IRA terrorists doesn’t quite meld with the freewheeling “peace, love, and drugs, man” persona he portrays.
Mr. Nice may fail as an effective argument for drug legalization (see How to Make Money Selling Drugs or The House I Live In for that), but succeeds as inventive biopic of one of the most interesting figures in that debate.
Take a Drink: for every substance imbibed, of course
Take a Drink: for every smuggle
Take a Drink: for rear projection
Take a Drink: “nordle”
Take a Drink: whenever Chloe Sevigny gives the stink-eye
Do a Shot: when Ifans finally ages into the role