Bernard Rose's film from Howard Marks' autobiography is an odd beast - larky but long, watchable but unpersuasive, agreeable but never too likeable. Ultimately, one asks if Mr Marks' story is worth making a movie about at all – there's plenty of incident and far flung locations to be sure, but on this evidence it simply isn't captivating enough. It episodically depicts the various adventures in the famed drug smuggler's life – Ifans is personable enough playing him but perhaps could do with more vigour.
Early black and white sequences show him leaving the poor family home to attend Oxford university. Here, attracted to the lovely Ilze (Pataky), he is introduced to drugs and on the first hit the movie moves into colour. One leaving uni, he and Ilze are employed as teachers but he craves excitement. A pal (Huston) asks him to transport some hashish from Germany and he warms to the task. He gets in contact with IRA renegade Jim McCann (Thewlis, relishing the chance to dispense with any subtlety) to help him transport hash from Pakistan and at the same time is recruited by university acquaintance Mac (McKay) to spy on his informants. He tries to crack the American market, working with US contact Glover, marries attractive Judy (Sevigny) and has two kids, spends time with his family in Palma, makes lots of money, and is eventually tracked down and jailed.
So there's much to get through, and Rose maintains a semi-jokey tone to the proceedings throughout. But you're never charmed by the protagonists – and frankly, why should you be? – this consequently never making one fully involved in their plight. It certainly has chutzpah but there are longueurs and ultimately it never hits the bullseye. You end up wishing you could like the movie more. A disappointment overall.