Sunday, June 5, 2011

Movie with Abe: Mr. Nice

Mr. Nice
Directed by Bernard Rose
Released June 3, 2011

When drugs are in the mix, it’s important to be very careful. Namely, most films which involve drugs inevitably feature a wholly unnecessary scene where the main character hallucinates his or her way into nonsense and manages to distract the film from any sense of purpose or direction for at least a few minutes (Ashton Kutcher’s entire part in “Bobby” is an example of this). When a movie is about a drug dealer and smuggler, however, the story is entirely different, and starting off with a scene like that can lead to some rather pleasant and affirming surprises, as it does in this entertaining and engaging caper based on the true story of Howard Marks.

It helps considerably that Marks, a drug smuggler who trafficked in multiple countries on multiple continents, is an extremely interesting character with a thrilling story. Those behind the film, however, don’t let the real-life person carry all the weight, and instead infuse the film with plenty of creativity and energy of its own. The film begins with a clever artistic twist while explaining the childhood of Marks and how he developed into his adult self. The casting of Rhys Ifans, most memorable from films such as “Notting Hill” and “The Replacements,” is extraordinarily smart since the rather goofy actor can properly and believably convey an acute joy at his unlawful behavior, tempered by a seeming lack of concern with whatever anyone else thinks of him. The most unforgettable member of the cast is David Thewlis, who plays Provisional IRA member Jim McCann, a definitive loose cannon with a crazy look always visible in his eyes.

Though the cast, which also includes Chloe Sevigny, Christian McKay, Crispin Glover, Jack Huston, and Luis Tosar, is amusing, this is ultimately a story about people, and its characters are very appealing, if for the complexity and madness of their thoughts and actions rather than their personalities. Marks’ journey from lonely intellectual to top-tier drug smuggler is a fascinating one, and the film manages to realize his story in a compelling, full, and fun way. It occasionally feels like a blend between the zaniness of “The Informant!” and the cat-and-mouse antics of “Catch Me If You Can.” At times, it’s certainly over-the-top, but ultimately, it proves to be an entertaining, enlightening experience that offers a peek into the mind of someone who chose lawlessness and being a chameleon to having a normal existence.


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