Review: Mr. Nice DVD

Mr. Nice DVDSTUDIO: MPI | DIRECTOR: Bernard Rose | CAST: Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Chloe Sevigny, Crispin Glover, Luis Tosar
RELEASE DATE: 10/11/2011 | PRICE: DVD $27.98, Blu-ray $34.98
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: NR | 121 min. | Drama comedy | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5,1 | English subtitles
RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The British film Mr. Nice stars Rhys Ifans (Pirate Radio) as Howard Marks, a middle-class Welsh boy who goes to Oxford, develops a taste for hashish, and soon stumbles his way into drug trafficking, eventually becoming one of Britain’s biggest marijuana smugglers.

Mr. Nice movie scene

Rhys Ifans is Howard Marks, one of Britain’s biggest marijuana smugglers, in Mr. Nice.

This film isn’t nearly as glitzy or violent as Ted Demme’s Blow or Ridley Scott’s American Gangster. A shaggy-dog, kicked-back drug-dealing story , Mr. Nice rides on Ifans’ solid performance as Marks.

A stoner who doesn’t initially set out to become a drug dealer, it’s Marks’ bizarre friendships with a crazed IRA operative (David Thewlis, Naked), an MI-6 spy (Luis Tosar) and a nutty Los Angeles dealer (Crispin Glover, Hot Tub Time Machine) that make his involvement in the business too thrilling and “fun” to pass up.

Though big-time smuggling is at the film’s center, Mr. Nice‘s most memorable moments can be found in the small details: Marks trying to find a working pay phone to make a buy, assessing the quality of hash by smoking it from a joint and not a hookah, and so on. At one point, most humorously, a properly British financial advisor launders Marks’ unending cash stream and announces to his board, “Gentlemen, this is what banking is all about.”

Incidentally, the movie’s title is taken from one of Marks’ fake passport identities.

Director Bernard Rose’s pace is measured but still snappy, and there’s a lot of fun to be had throughout the film’s time span from the mid-1960s through the late-1980s, when the inevitable crash comes and Marks is sentenced to 25 years in prison. Mr. Nice, a “nicer” drug movie than most, saves this “downer” for the final half-hour, wisely keeping the tone and spirit “high” for the majority of its running time.

A refreshing change of pace is the absence of a wall-to-wall soundtrack of period music, with the filmmakers opting for a synthesized score by Philip Glass. But there are a handful of well-chosen songs of the era thrown in, including John Lennon’s “God” and “Careful With That Ax, Eugene” by Pink Floyd (whose crated touring amplifiers, it’s implied, are used as drug smuggling containers by Mr. Nice).

The supplemental making-of featurette on the DVD offers a few glimpses and comments from the real Marks and interviews with the cast and crew, who appear to have really enjoyed the production and the man upon whose life it is based. Welsh-born star Ifans puts it best when he says, Marks “is a Welsh-speaking hero who’s not a singer or a sportsman — he follows in the great tradition of Welsh rogue-ishness.”


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.