121 minutes| U.K.| 2010| Colour| D-Cinema

Oxbridge graduate, drug smuggler, prisoner, author and raconteur, Howard Marks has had quite a life, and Bernard Rose turns it into a friskily entertaining movie. Rhys Ifans is pretty much ideal casting here, and he absolutely convinces us that Marks is a befuddled innocent – a Welsh Valleys boy way out of his depth – who just happens to stumble into drug smuggling and discover he has a flair for it. Certainly writer-director-editor Bernard Rose is in sync with Marks’ view on the legalisation of pot, but his film also illustrates the damaged lives resulting from addictive behaviours of various stripes, Marks essentially being addicted to dealing.

With its mischievous use of vintage archive, a witty Philip Glass score and a delightful payload of anecdotal incident, this is disarming at every turn, and though Ifans registers both highs and lows with engaging aplomb, David Thewlis’ off-the-leash contribution as a rogue Irish Republican very nearly steals the movie. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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