Thursday, June 2, 2011

MR. NICE -- Bernard Rose's Oxford grad/ drug dealer/family man bio-pic is... nice

Bernard Rose is a man who clearly should stay away from BIG movies. His version of Anna Karenina and his Beethoven bio-pic enhanced neither subject, yet his smaller movies have often been surprisingly interesting. The early Paperhouse (1988) quickly acquired a cult following, as did his entry into the horror genre Candyman, while his 2008 film The Kreutzer Sonata proved one of the better movie imaginings of male jealousy. Now comes a film that combines some of the "bigness" of the Rose-of-yore with the filmmaker's storytelling skills, and the result is a relatively painless paint-by-number detailing of the "facts" of a very bizarre British life.

The word facts, above, is in quotes because the film -- directed by Mr. Rose (shown at right) and also adapted by him from the supposedly autobiographical book (of the same title as the movie and written by its main character, Howard Marks) -- leans pretty heavily on the gospel according to Mr. Marks. And while this son-of-the-working-class who managed to get himself an Oxford education gives himself full discredit for being a lousy husband and father (early on, at least), the movie also revels is his attractiveness, humor and general ain't-I-just-one-terrific-guy loveableness.

That Marks is played very well by one of cinema's best actors at doing crazy, Rhys Ifans (above), helps matters enormously. Ifans is surrounded by some excellent support, as well: especially David Thewlis as IRA bad boy Jim McCann (below, with gun) and Christian McKay (Orson in Me and Orson Welles) as an Oxford chum.

Women's role are stock and could have been mailed in by most any actress. Chloë Sevigny gets the biggest of them (as Mrs. Nice, below, center) and is properly forgettable. My biggest gripe, casting-wise, is the use of that great Spanish actor Luis Tosar while neglecting to give him a decent role.

The movie skips around from England and Afghanistan (below) to Hollywood and back, and despite its two hour length the pace seldom slackens, and -- for those of us who knew little to nothing about Howard Marks, this is time interestingly spent.

Mr. Nice, running 121 minutes, opens tomorrow -- Friday, June 3 -- in New York City at the Cinema Village. One would imagine it might be opening elsewhere, too, but I can find no information on the site of its supposed distributor MPI Media Group.  Your move.

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