Monday, 11 October 2010

Review: Mr Nice

Year: 2010
Director: Bernard Rose
Screenplay: Bernard Rose
Starring: Rhys Ifans, Chole Sevigny, David Thewlis, Crispin Glover, Omid Djalili, Christian McKay

This should have been a given to me. A British film, written and directed by a director I admire, with a cast I like. The trailer looked fun, and it was about an interesting man in Howard Marks how could I lose?

Well you can lose if you expect something more than what Mr Nice is, which is quite a bog standard biopic with a lead character who is kept at quite a remarkable distance. There are intermittent moments of humor and the performances are watchable. However, for me, I found it strange to how boring the everything is.

The problem for me is Rose, a director whose films have always had a wonderful uniqueness and presence, tries nothing too abstract here. The film follows the typical rise and falls of the biopic at a lethargic pace with a character that is hard to root for. Not because he peddles drugs, that not a problem with a film like this, it's more the fact that it's hard to warm to the Marks character in anyway.

The film is all so matter of fact, with no real quirks in style other than an odd placement of these modern characters into old style movie. This unfortunately sticks out like a sore thumb and once again keeps us at an arms length, unlike recent biopics (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Bronson) which use their style to create effect to create a visual mindscape that helps gain a better grip of the character. Here, it's the slow lulling tones of Rhys Ifans' narration that try and warm the audience. Unfortunately, it's far too assuming to really enjoy. 

Like I said, there are good performances within the film.  David Thewlis, Crispin Glover, Omid Djalili, Christian McKay make the most out of their flat caricatures and while Chole Sevigny struggles with the London accent she still remains an engaging presence. Rhys Ifans was clearly born for a role like this and fits into it snugly.

The problem is that there's really nothing that make you need to watch this film. It's competently made (it IS Rose) but when the film wants to talk about things such as drug legalization or the curious fact that a man from a tiny mining town in Wales becomes FBI's most wanted criminal, there are other films that have more interesting things to say.