2010 Certificate: 18


Rhys Ifans plays Howard Marks, the Welsh drug smuggler whose empire was built on connections with the IRA, the Mafia and MI6. From his post-Oxford boom years to his eventual bust by the US authorities, 'Mr Nice' went through 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and enough hashish to put an elephant into space. Director Bernard 'Candyman' Rose steers us through the highs and lows of an unusual career, with David Thewlis joining the cause as twitchy IRA contact Jim McCann and Chloe Sevigny standing by her man as Marks' second wife Judy.


  • Bernard Rose


  • Rhys Ifans

  • David Thewlis

  • Chloe Sevigny

  • Omid Djalili

  • Andrew Tiernan


It's odd that Howard Marks is described as a 'Robin Hood figure' since he didn't rob from anyone (unless you count the taxpayers who funded the massive international operation that led to his arrest) and kept all his illegally gotten gains for himself.

Still, sales of his memoir 'Mr Nice' - and this hagiographic adaptation - suggest that some rogues can do no wrong.

The purported scale of Marks' hash-smuggling empire was testament to an extremely sharp and calculating mind. Yet while we meet him as a straight-A student, he's mostly portrayed as an amiable lug with a lucky streak.

Sauntering through the bulk of the film like a mellowed-out Liam Gallagher, Ifans' valley boyo is first introduced to the joy of drugs at Oxford by the girl who would become his first wife.

After a boring period of marriage, teaching and abstinence, Marks regains his smokin' mojo while driving a carload of hash back from Germany as a favour to an Oxford pal.

Hooked on the thrill, he's soon setting up a major import business from Pakistan to the UK via Ireland, facilitated by IRA loose cannon McCann (Thewlis).

Their allegiance draws the attention of another Oxford alumnus (Christian McKay), an MI6 spook who presses Marks into a little espionage. In return, he's given more than enough leeway to expand his operation to America and beyond.

But while he enjoys his time in the sun, other authorities are closing in. And inevitably, it all starts to go Pete Tong.

Deliberately or not, Rose's film takes a distinctly narcotic path, beginning in monochrome to show the dullness of Marks' youth before bringing colour to his life with his first toke.