Edward Burns is a guy who loves what he does, and you can just see it in his work. Whether it’s through his acting, his direction or his writing, even though it may not always be perfect, you know he puts a lot of passion behind it. While he’s never been a mainstream star, both his name, and his credentials – well, at least a few – are instantly recognizable to almost everyone who knows anything about cinema, and that alone is a feat in itself.
His latest entry for the indie scene is Nice Guy Johnny, an enjoyable, yet ultimately simple film about relationships and following your dreams. The story follows 24-year-old Johnny Rizzo (Matt Bush), a sports radio deejay during the hours of 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., who is being forced by his fiancee, Claire (Anna Wood), to go to New York for a job interview that her father has lined up for him. Reluctant, but always ready to please, Johnny bows to her wishes and flies out to New York, all but ready to leave his dreams behind for a bigger paycheck and a boring job. When he arrives he quickly meets up with his Uncle, Terry Cunningham (Edward Burns), who is the exact opposite of Johnny, almost to a fault, living life on the edge, not worrying about tomorrow or about the true happiness of others so long as the smile remains on his face. That actually makes Terry sound worse than he is, although, in all honesty, he is that bad depending on how you look at it. I suppose it’s the great work done by Burns with the character that gives Terry an aura about him that you just can’t dislike no matter how selfish the man may be.
Terry instantly tries to get his nephew off the dreary path he’s headed down, telling him that he’s far too young to be getting married, and that there is no way he can give up his dream job for a job at a box factory. Terry tells Johnny to come with him to the Hamptons for the weekend in hopes that he’ll be able to help young man see the light, and while Johnny isn’t planning on following in the footsteps of his uncle, he agrees to accompany him because that’s the kind of guy he is.
It’s on this trip, however, that Johnny meets Brooke (Kerry Bishé), a young tennis instructor who has a zest for life, and believes that Johnny should do what he wants to do and not what people tell him to do. You could, of course, look at this as Johnny doing what she’s telling him to do, if he in fact does take her advice, thus making the point moot all around, but that’s just me being comically stingy. The two hit it off and although Johnny has always done the right thing in the past, or at least the nicest thing, can he continue down that road with his beliefs constantly being questioned and his dreams on the line?
As said above, Burns is once again on his A-game when it comes to acting. The scenes he’s in truly make the film, and while it’s great he continues to bring new talent to light, hopefully the next film he writes will have him as the central character. Bush does a solid job in the role of Johnny, as he truly comes off as a boy scout always looking to make others happy; however, his chemistry with the other actors just seems a bit off. His work with Burns is the best, though in a film like this it’s his work with Bishé that needs to see the sparks fly. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, as the pair never seem to come off as a believable couple. Sure Brooke is looking for a nice guy, but right from their first meeting she looks as though she shrugs him off as a suitor and is relieved when he tells her he’s engaged.
On the other hand, Bishé is a hidden gem that Burns has once again brought to the light. While Cameron Diaz obviously got her start from starring alongside Jim Carrey in The Mask, she was also picked to star in She’s the One, the second film by Burns, who was extremely hot at the time. While the film didn’t garner the acclaim of his previous film, The Brothers McMullen, Diaz continued her rise to fame, and Burns obviously saw that potential. Almost immediately I saw Diaz in Bishé and I believe that if given the chance, Bishé could easily continue to grow in the industry. Here’s hoping that Burns, who’s used actors multiple times in the past, continues to use her in upcoming films.
Nice Guy Johnny is about what you’d expect from an Edward Burns film, and that’s meant in a flattering way, even though the film is definitely not his strongest. It’s an average tale, with lessons to be learned, and advice to be given, yet never enters the realm of being memorable. Burns has a way to make you feel good while watching his comedies, even if you never find yourself laughing out loud even once. That may seem like a bad thing, but it’s not. Burns has a way with writing and the way he tells a story that make his works easy to relate with and can leave you pondering your own life, and or just simply feeling good inside, and sometimes that’s better than a quick laugh.
The picture is done with a 16×9 1.85 LB format, and it looks great. There are no real complaints to be had about the quality of the video, as the picture always looks clear and crisp, and the colours are as vibrant as one could hope. The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital and also sounds great. Burns loves using indie music to help move his pictures forward, or add to the story, and they blend in perfectly with the dialogue being spoken in the scenes previous to their playing, and work in smoothly to the next scene with no volume hassles.
Director’s Commentary with Edward Burns – This will be the thing fans of Burns will be looking for, and here it is. Obviously this type of film isn’t expected to have much in the way of extras, and it doesn’t, but this commentary should leave fans happy enough.
Deleted Scenes – There are two deleted scenes, and while one that takes place on the Brooklyn Bridge helps understand a later line in the film about “nobody filming you,” though the line still makes enough sense without this previous conversation that ultimately just pushes the point that Johnny is a nice guy, and wasn’t needed. The second scene is much better left the way they did it in the movie, as the drinking and driving scene that would have been would have taken away from the film on some level.
Extended Bar Scene – Watching this scene again makes me wonder why they even bothered showing it here at all. My guess would be that Burns wanted to give the two girls in the scene – who look incredibly young to be hanging out at a bar at all, let alone in the middle of the afternoon when they’re the only ones there – their moment in the sun. The reasoning behind this belief is because the only addition to the scene are a pair of lines delivered by said girls when Burns asks them if his nephew is too young to get married. Still, if that’s the case, kudos to him for giving them the memory.
Matt and Kerry Audition – Here’s a three and a half minute audition clip that’s pretty self explanatory from the title. The two perform the scene from the beach, which is partially altered from the final product. Bishé once again looks like someone who’s a natural.
Nice Guy Johnny is not an overly memorable film, and the chemistry between the lead characters isn’t quite believable, but there’s heart to be found, and the ideas behind the story are solid. While not for everyone, this is a film that Edward Burns fans will likely enjoy, and those who haven’t liked his past works, will likely choose to shy away from. For those who are neither, this one is worth a watch, if for no other reason that to see the great find that is Kerry Bishé.
Marlboro Road Gang Productions presents an Edward Burns Film Nice Guy Johnny. Directed by: Edward Burns. Starring: Matt Bush, Kerry Bishe, Edward Burns. Running time: 92 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: Oct. 26, 2010.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.