Up in Smoke 

Smuggling Hashish with Mr. Nice

MR. NICE Or, you know, it totally will. Whatevs.

MR. NICE Or, you know, it totally will. Whatevs.

"APART FROM THE preoccupation and false identity, there was little to indicate I was Britain's most wanted fugitive from justice," says Howard Marks (Rhys Ifans) in Mr. Nice. "I was very popular, and had a lot of friends. They knew who I was, and I was fully aware that any one of them could turn me in to the authorities at any time. I just bigheadedly assumed that anyone who knew me liked me, and wouldn't do such a thing."

There's little doubt that the Wales-born, Oxford-educated Marks—who, after a brief stint as a teacher, went full-on into drug smuggling, eventually controlling mind-boggling amounts of hashish—is a pretty great subject for a biopic. Based off Marks' autobiography, Mr. Nice frames his story with copious amounts of stylization and adoration; while the sometimes-disastrous consequences of Marks' dealings are never ignored, it's also nearly impossible to come out of the film not liking him quite a bit, and maybe even considering international hashish smuggling as a legitimate career option.

If Mr. Nice has a problem, it's that of most biopics: Real lives don't have narrative arcs, and largely play out as a series of repetitive incidents, some of which go places and some of which don't. And so it goes: Here's Marks scheming; here's Marks having lots of sex with his wife (Chloë Sevigny); here's Marks getting (maybe?) recruited as a spy for MI-6; here's Marks running about with dubious colleagues like the IRA's Jim McCann (David Thewlis) and an obnoxious California smuggler, Crispin Glover with a Beard (Crispin Glover with a beard). There are ups, and downs, and more ups and downs, until it all peters out in a blur of smoke and cash and sex and panic. Ifans, Thewlis, and Sevigny are all fantastic, Crispin Glover's beard is weird, and there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours, even if you'll get the gist of where it's all going by the time the first act's over.

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