Director: Edward Burns
Writer: Edward Burns
Starring: Matt Bush, Kerry Bishé, Anne Wood, Edward Burns, Max Baker
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: NR
Time: 91 minutes
USA Release: 10/26/2010
On DVD (USA): 10/26/2010
Yes you’ve heard right Ed Burns is back, directing his first film since 2007’s “Purple Violets” but this time he is going way back to where it all started using a small budget just like his debut film “The Brothers McMullen”. But will this be a breakthrough movie like the ones from his early career or will this just be a disappointment to his fans. Let’s get settled in our favorite chair and get ready to take this trip.
“Nice Guy Johnny” is a story about well a nice guy named Johnny, you get the title now, right? Well anyways Johnny Rizzo (Matt Bush) is a DJ for a sports radio talk show, and although he loves his job, he is going to head out to New York for an interview set up by his fiancé’s dad all to please his fiancé Claire (Anna Wood), who he promised that by the time he was 25 he’d be making a certain amount of money. Seeing that Johnny is a good hearted fella he goes anyways thinking that this would be a simple and easy trip. But after stopping in to see his Uncle Terry (Ed Burns), and agreeing to go to the Hamptons with him, he is about to have his weekend become a very enlightening one. After getting to the Hamptons Johnny after refusing to stay there after repeatedly telling his uncle he has a fiancé and doesn’t want to be set up, he his forced to spend a couple of hours with Brooke (Kerry Bishé) a college tennis player who is spending the summer in the Hamptons. At first he is very guarded around her, but after they coincidently meet again, things start to open up and they learn a bit about one another and she helps Johnny confront what’s going on in his life.
Now unfortunately this is not Ed Burns’ best work, to be quite honest if I didn’t know that this was a cheaply made movie than I would swear that Ed Burns had never directed before. But now that I have learned that it was made for only $25,000 in 10 days with 5 guys as advertised on the official website (well on a shirt on the official website), I have to give him more credit for taking such a risk with that kind of budget. Being a film shot in 10 days I quite enjoyed seeing some of the locations chosen for this movie, but being Ed Burns of course he knows the right people to be able to use a huge house in the Hamptons. I also enjoyed a lot of the shots, I thought they were very inventive and only something that you could find in an independent film. Along with the shots in the movie, the soundtrack seemed to flow in the right way, unfortunately a couple of the songs seem to be blatant rip-offs of great older songs, see if you spot any. Another thing working against this movie is the editing, which has some weird cuts and fadeouts that weren’t necessary. And with the amount of what I call M.A.D.I. (or Mysterious Appearing and Disappearing Items) this almost seems to have been edited by a first time film student (which it possible could have). But like Burns is known for, he does come up with a really realistic feel for stories, bringing the phrase “write what you know” well in the case of Burns “shoot where you know” into focus. Yes, this is not his best work but the initial story is very plausible and I feel that if there was more effort directing wise that this could have been a really great movie, unfortunately that didn’t happen. There could have been more focus on some of the characters like Uncle Terry and why he is the way he is and can get away with it, but like with any story it could go in a million directions, but like I said before with more effort this could have been a really great indie gem.
Just like some of the other problems in the movie the casting of Anna Wood (as Claire) was just a mistake, I know Burns was going for unknown actors but she was just not very good in this role, she seemed to be learning how to act while shooting the film, she was just not convincing. Although her character is a spoiled brat, daddy’s girl and major control freak that makes you want to punch her in the face for Johnny, Wood just didn’t seem to be the right fit, she looked almost uncomfortable delivering her lines. As for Ed Burns’ role, yes Uncle Terry is a user and just down right sleazy but he does seem to know Johnny better than Johnny thinks and seems to have his best interest at heart after all of the crap he says. But even with that kind of role, Burns seemed to just sleep walk through his own movie, the director should have fired him. Personally I think Burns needs to take a step back and maybe just write and direct a movie, see how that goes. But the shinning light in this film is the leads, Kerry Bishé (as Brooke) has much promise and I look forward to her future roles. She played her role very convincingly, showing us that as much as she plays it carefree she really is looking for the full time gig, and that like Johnny, she too is lost and is searching for where she wants to be in life. Like Bishé, Matt Bush (best known for his AT&T commercials and 2009’s Adventureland) shows a lot of promise, I can’t wait to see what he does next. He shows us that the character isn’t putting on an act but really is a nice guy, that wants to do good for Claire but isn’t being true to himself. In addition Bishé and Bush have really great chemistry together, I really do hope that they work together again sometime.
All in all this is a movie that with more effort by Burns could have been really great instead it’s barely holding on to really good. With a story that had the right idea, a great location and killer leads, makes it a film worth watching but in the end you will wonder why Burns would let this film be seen with all the mistakes that with his experience he should have noticed.