“Mr. Nice” is about how a nice young Welshman became a drug lord

“Mr Nice” is a great autobiographical story about Howard Marks (Rhys Ifans), a shy young Welsh boy who finds himself going to Oxford, and on his accidental way to being a British hash king pin.  It’s based on his book of the same name, or title.

It starts in a surprising way: before he gives a speech, he asks “are there any plain clothes officers here?”

The poster (from images.google.com)

The story’s era and Mr. Marks’ temperament reminds me of “In the Name of the Father,” although it has not a thing to do with this film.  Mr. Nice/Marks is a smart, funny slacker as king pin, upturning many stereotypes.  This backwoods Welshman tests well, and ends up at Oxford, discovering the pleasure of drugs, and more, that his innocent look serves his need for stealth.

If that core of the story wasn’t enough, it turns out that the British secret service turn to him to turn up information that eludes them.  Both of these twists on the typical are welcome and refreshing!

This smart, amusing and atypical true-crime yarn opens at the Lagoon Cinema on September 30th.

This story feels a lot like 2001’s “Blow,” but without that one’s morose ending or dramatic peaks and valleys in the plot.  He’s no Scarface or Daniel Craig’s no-name character in 2004’s “Layer Cake.”  (In fact the actor, Rhys Ifans, is the “masterbating Irishman” from Notting Hill.)  This is less of a paint-by-numbers film than other drug lord ones.  Some drug dramas emphasize trauma and upturned lives.  This one, without any hard-boiled East Coast-style shows Mr. Marks’ slippery slope of involvement.

“Mr. Nice” is a crazy, funny story that’s very smart, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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