This is a fascinating biopic about a global drug smuggler who begins life as the ultimate academic, becomes a legendary pothead and eventually pays a brutal price for the insidious path he chooses to take.
Howard Marks (aka Mr Nice, played by Rhys Ifans) is living in a small mining village in Wales when he wins a scholarship to Oxford and, even amongst fellow academics, proves himself to be an exceptionally high achiever. He takes a job teaching at a London school but, unfortunately, academic life loses its allure when he starts to rub shoulders with the local dope-smuggling community. These new associates offer him three times his annual salary to take a trip across the German border in a car packed with hashish and he is so dazzled by their opulence that he succumbs. This first date with the devil gives him a taste of what could be and it is from here that his aberrant, spectacular rise begins.
During these felonious years, Marks uses altogether 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and runs 25 international companies, the latter being centres for his drug distribution ring. At his peak he is trafficking 30 tons of hashish from Pakistan and Thailand and importing it to Canada and America. Among his associates are members of the Mafia, CIA, IRA and MI6 and, when he parties, he has champagne in his hand and a ‘get-out-of-jail’ card in his pocket. He resists dealing in high potency narcotics and refrains from violence, but this stab at pseudo-morality is not what earns him his unlikely pseudonym, which is quite another story.
Despite his contacts, Marks has a serious brush with the law but manages to get away with it and, breathing a huge sigh of relief, relocates with his young family to Spain. He pays his taxes and lives an altogether respectable life but struggles to live without danger lurking in the shadows and soon returns to the life he was convinced he could leave behind. There is an intriguing voice-over by Marks himself which tells us that the reason for this is that he “got bored,” and although it’s his story that is being told this man still conjures up an air of mystery and teases the audience, who know he has so much more to tell.
Unfortunately, this unique film has not been picked up for distribution by the studios who probably consider the subject matter a little too audacious for their politically correct tastes. This is a shame as audiences would flock to watch Mr Nice as he is drawn inexplicably on his downward path, all because, like us, he can resist anything but temptation, is divinely human and gloriously and incurably flawed.
DVD available at www.amazon.co.uk
Netflix – coming soon
Exclusive one-week engagement starting September 9, 2011 at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, Los Angeles.