Mr. Nice


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Mr Nice is a biopic about convicted drug dealer Howard Marks and his wife Judy. Since it is based on their dueling autobiographies, you would expect it to be at least somewhat self-glorifying and self-justifying, and you would be right, but you probably would not guess the extent to which that is true. As Howard tells it, he only dealt in cannabis, a virtually harmless substance that should be legalized, and he therefore did nothing really wrong, even if it was illegal. While he was dealing, he never carried a weapon or committed a violent act, yet almost single-handedly wiped out Irish terrorism and organized crime. While in prison, he helped all the innocent men get released, and helped all the guilty men get rehabilitated and educated. He was braver than Sgt. York and smarter than Socrates, was irresistible to women, and was a better husband and father than Dr. Cliff Huxtable. Everyone who knew him loved him.

Although purportedly a true story, it is less credible than most fiction. Hell, it is less credible than most Road Runner cartoons. It makes Watchmen seem like gritty realism. On the other hand, maybe some of it is true, or at least reasonably close to the truth. I hope so, because Marks is a funny and entertaining storyteller. Frankly, I'm not going to look up any of the details, because if I were to research the story and find out that all his claims have been debunked, I'd be disappointed. I enjoyed it so much and learned so much from it that I want it to be true.

The one element that really makes the story entertaining is the film's portrayal of Jim McCann, a batshit crazy IRA captain who called himself the Shamrock Pimpernel. When McCann isn't threatening to shoot people's kneecaps, he's painting funny faces on his penis, watching barnyard porno in public, and just generally being completely out of control. At one point he is completely surrounded by police offers and manages to get away by blasting away wildly with an automatic weapon while setting off several green smoke bombs and disappearing in the mist. Yes, that particular incident seems utterly impossible and I doubt whether anything like that ever happened, but I have heard that the real Jim McCann ("My name is Mr Nobody. My address is The World.") was actually even crazier than the character in this film.

The Welsh comic Rhys Ifans, a favorite of mine, is cool and funny and immensely likeable as Howard Marks, but the real star performance of the film is turned in by David Thewlis, who delivers a brilliantly demented interpretation of McCann. The only weak performance resulted from the inexplicable casting of an American, Chloe Sevigny, as Marks' English wife. She's a solid performer in general, but she has a different accent in every scene, and her characterization seems too weak and wimpy to have done all the things Judy Marks did. I don't get it. Why not just hire a stronger and comparably sexy English actress? Oh, well. Maybe that's just me being persnickety, because it isn't important enough to spoil the film.

Bernard Rose, the director of this film, has had a curiously eclectic career. He wrote and directed a popular horror film named Candyman, which was adapted from a Clive Barker story. He wrote and directed a romantic Beethoven biopic called Immortal Beloved, which was an original screenplay. He wrote and directed a "Hollywood Insider" film called Ivansxtc, which was a modern interpretation of a Tolstoy story. I've seen all three of those films plus Mr Nice and I liked them all, but without IMDb at my fingertips I never would have guessed that they were all created by the same man. He's also created several others that I haven't seen, and it is almost impossible to find any common thread running through them. Bernard Rose is a very complicated man.

But also a competent one.

It is not yet available in North America. Here is the link at Amazon.UK






3 The Guardian (of 5 stars)
50 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)


6.4 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It opened on 102 theaters in the UK. Big films appear on about 400 theaters in the U.K., so 100 there is about like 700 in the USA. It finished in 11th place.

The total UK gross was about $400,000.


  • Bai Ling showed her right breast in a down blouse.



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is a far funnier film than one would expect from a biopic of a drug dealer. It would be only a moderately entertaining film without the David Thewlis character, but with him it is well worth the time invested.