You’d think that a story about one of the most infamous drug smugglers of the 1970s would make for a pretty good film. After all, this is a movie that opens with the lead character comically declaring, “My success went right to my head, and I’ve been living off it ever since.” But Bernard Rose’s “Mr. Nice” is so painfully tedious in the presentation of its subject matter that you eventually lose interest. Based on the life and times of Howard Marks (Rhys Ifans), a promising Oxford scholar who gave up a future in academics to pursue a career dealing drugs, the movie follows his rise to infamy as one of the world’s foremost hashish distributors.
Unfortunately, none of it is particularly engaging, as Rose races through each major event like it’s a bullet point on a crib sheet. Ifans may have campaigned hard for the role (he’s good friends with the real-life Marks), but he’s delivered much better work in smaller roles, while Chloë Sevigny (as his wife, Judy) is essentially a glorified extra. Only David Thewlis escapes unscathed as an IRA soldier who joins Marks’ risky business venture, but even his performance doesn’t always click. The bulk of the blame, however, belongs to Rose, as he just doesn’t know how to make the story interesting. He definitely has some great ideas (the decision to hold back any color until Marks smokes his first joint works well in depicting the importance of drugs in his life), but more often than not, he only makes the movie worse. “Mr. Nice” certainly has its moments, but you’d be better off just catching Ted Demme’s “Blow” on cable instead.