Enveloped in a thick white blanket of smoke trails, Rhys Ifans stars as the infamous hashish baron Howard Marks in the new cinema adaption of the autobiography Mr Nice (pronounced like the French city Nice), directed by Bernard Rose. The film title is derived from Howard's pseudonym, a name he overhears in a pub and uses it to forge a new identity. He then goes on to scheme, plot, and blatantly disregard laws under the guises of the IRA, CIA and the MI6 to import hashish to make enough cash to make bankers blush.
Despite protests from his loyal and understanding girlfriend/wife Judy, played by Chloe Sevigny, Howard goes on to try crack America by concealing hash blocks in a band's speakers. One speaker is mistakenly left behind and after an inspection by vigilant US cops, it is traced back to him and results in a seven year spell in prison in 1988, although he was sentenced to twenty-five. This passing of time is marked by the eventual loss of his youth, his maddening loneliness, the loss of his teeth and his children growing up into adulthood - one that he momentarily mistakes for Judy during a prison visit.
The attention to detail is this film is on point. Visually, it is a gourmet feast for the eyes for anyone who appreciates stunning cinematography and photographic shots. The cars, clothes, props, hairstyles and settings looked like they were straight out of the 70s and 80s, not copies or outrageous exaggerations, but the real deal. Vintage footage of traffic-lodged and bustling Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street have been successfully married with the present day actors to create a time-travelling sensation. Howard, an Oxford graduate, experiments with LSD at the beginning of the film whilst he was still at university. Hallucinations were presented through close up shots of enormous cartoon-like bubbles in the toilet and hazy dream-like states of mind.
The film is essentially about the legalisation of marijuana. Howard obviously disagrees with the fact that is illegal and asks, I paraphrase, that how can a plant that inspires and heals someone be illegal? However, marijuana being illegal is the reason why he becomes infamous and rich. It is also the reason why he was locked up. This demonstrates that drug barons have the best and worst of both worlds - luxury, whilst living on a knife's edge of fear.
He was released from prison the same day as Mike Tyson. "I had," he was quoted to say, "been continuously in prison for the last six-and-a-half years for transporting beneficial herbs from one place to another, while he had done three years for rape."
"Fellow dopeheads and fans of terrorism may cheer him on, but this struck me as an empty-headed movie with a very obviously broken moral compass" - Daily Mail article by Christopher Tookey
If one does not wish to see a film that has a "broken moral compass" then surely a film about a drug baron's life is not ideal. It's on par with stating that a film based around Jack the Ripper is too gory and disturbing - what is expected otherwise?