Mr. Nice, a riveting British film which will be released in the United States on Friday, June 3, tells the story of the legendary Howard Marks, a Welsh-born Oxford University student whose initial dabbling in marijuana dealing led to a career as an international cannabis smuggler. His chosen vocation resulted in supposed connections to the Irish Republican Army, MI-6 and the Mafia — all amid side jobs and cover gigs as travel agent, teacher and spy.
Watching an advance screening copy of the movie last night, Viki and I were glued to our seats by this compelling tale of a rural young Welshman’s transformation into one of the biggest cannabis dealers on the planet. Howard Marks, with his sharp, analytical business mind and fearless, calm demeanor, would have done well at anything, but thank goodness he chose the noble calling of weed smuggler.
From its evocative early scenes of the 1960s where the innocent young Marks is introduced to the world of hashish, to his meetings with IRA operatives in Ireland, members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in California, and hash smugglers in Pakistan, Mr. Nice almost always hits the sweet spot, with star Rhys Ifans doing an incredible job of capturing Marks’ character.
Marks’ colorful life and many adventures, under countless alibis, carried him from London to Ireland to Germany to Pakistan, Thailand, Spain and the United States — and eventually to prison. At the height of his smuggling career, Marks was said to have controlled 10 percent of the world’s hashish trade.
|Howard Marks himself, the real Mr. Nice.|
During the mid-1980s, Marks had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines, and 25 companies trading throughout the world. Bars, recording studios, and offshore banks all served as money-laundering clearinghouses serving the core activity: “dope dealing,” as the Brits call it.
Marks began to deal during a postgraduate philosophy course at Oxford, and was soon moving large quantities of fine Paki hash into Europe and America in the equipment of touring rock bands. Not shockingly, the academic life began to lose its allure for the young adventurer.
At the height of his career, Marks was smuggling shipments of up to 30 tons from Pakistan and Thailand to America and Canada.
During his smuggling career, he claims not to have ever used violence, and to have always refused to deal with hard drugs.
After many years and a worldwide operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Marks was grabbed in Mallorca, Spain, busted and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
He was released on parole in 1995 after serving seven years of his sentence, at which point he went to work on his 1996 best-selling autobiography, Mr. Nice, upon which the movie is based.
In addition to his autobiography, Marks also compiled an anthology called The Howard Marks Book of Dope Stories (2001) and more recently a follow-up to his autobiography, Señor Nice: Straight Life From Wales To South America.
Marks, who is an activist for the legalization of cannabis, currently lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England and tours the world as a one-man show.
He recorded the song “Grow More Weed,” with the UK dub punk band P.A.I.N. For a time in the late 1990s, he managed the Welsh psychedelic rock band the Super Furry Animals.
The film stars Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and the upcoming Spider-Man); Chloe Sevigny (HBO’s Big Love); David Thewlis (Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter films) and Jack Huston (HBO’s Boardwalk Empire).
Mr. Nice, originally released in 2010 in the U.K., was written and directed by Bernard Rose (Candyman) and based on the autobiography by Howard Marks himself. Don’t miss it in U.S. theaters, Friday, June 3.