Mr. Nice is as much a film about hubris as it is about Howard Marks, a Welsh marijuana and hashish dealer who grew to international prominence before he was arrested at his home in the Balearic Islands in 1988. Marks—who was said to be in control of 10 percent of the world's hashish market at one point and enjoyed supposed connections with groups such as the CIA, the IRA, MI6, and the Mafia—was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Nice was adapted from his best-selling 1996 autobiography, so, unsurprisingly, it portrays Marks with a rather likable comportment—he thinks the drugs he's dealing are harmless and he's nonviolent. He is a daring and competent dope dealer who's justified his line of work because he believes the drug isn't harmful, but he's also a committed father and husband. Still, Mark's arrogance continues to best his compulsions to leave the drug trade. Despite numerous near-busts, including an acquittal based on false testimony, it's his flippant attitude and gloating that ultimately bring him down.
Rhys Ifans submits a solid performance as Marks, and David Thewlis is pleasant as Marks's porn-obsessed and affable-but-hotheaded IRA connection. But while Nice charms with its tale of previolent drug cartel trafficking, even the most pivotal scenes often lack tension. If you already know Marks's story, which is somewhat common knowledge, there are few surprises here. Spoiler alert: Marks served seven years of his sentence and was released after a number of good deeds in prison, including teaching and helping erroneously convicted inmates appeal their sentences. Now he tours as a one-man show (which is revealed in the opening scene) and advocates marijuana legalization, so if arrogance took him down, it's maybe also arrogance that set him free.