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RUNNING TIME 90 Minutes
- Audio Commentary with Edward Burns (and friends)
- New Interview with Ed Burns
- Original Casting Footage
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
Chronic nice guy sports DJ Johnny goes to New York for a job interview set up by his fianceé. When he arrives, his misogynist uncle takes him to the Hamptons for pre-marital shenanigans. There, he meets a former collegiate tennis star, who opens up his world and makes him question his path. Should he be the nice guy and take a job he doesn’t want or keep following his dreams of radio stardom?
Matt Bush, Kerry Bishé, Edward Burns
“Has there ever been a movie where there’s a young white guy that’s troubled? Well, let’s do one of those. Except with good acting.”
Ever since there have been young people, there have been young people lamenting their own lives. Such is Nice Guy Johnny on the surface. Matt Bush (the ball punching Frigo from Adventureland) plays the titular Johnny, a guy stuck between adolescence and adulthood. He’s got the worst shift at his dream job and has a hard to handle fianceé. He takes it all, though, because he’s a nice guy. He doesn’t argue, he doesn’t fight, he just takes it. When his father-in-law has a position open up at an acquaintances, Johnny’s fianceé sets up an interview for him to advance him from his low paying job that he absolutely loves.
So, within the first ten minutes, you know exactly how the movie is going to end. You know the beats that will be hit, you know that Nice Guy Johnny will have to be not so nice at some point, and that there will be an attractive alternative to the bitchy fianceé. It’s not a terribly original story by a longshot, but it comfortably sets into the rhythms and maintains a consistent tone throughout. The execution is light and fluffy and never really quite unpleasant. The direction is solid, the editing solid, the look solid, and everything else just hits in a fairly solid manner.
This isn’t so much a criticism as it is that this piece is fairly unsubstantial. That doesn’t make it a bad film. Quite the opposite, at least for me. Nice Guy Johnny feels like a small movie, which adds to its charm. The focus is clear, not overpopulated with characters or superfluous details, and it moves along at a brisk pace. Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice the fairly flat dialogue from writer/director/actor Edward Burns. Burns being an actor in his day job, though, definitely informs the performances here, which allows the dullness of the page to move along in a light and poppy manner. Not quite Aaron Sorkin, but a really good pacing, though.
What really elevates the movie above the other small time movies is truly the acting. In any other movie that deals with unhappy manchildren, you might see angst or some other negative emotion in the main characters. Not wrong, just typical. What we get here is a true nice guy as our protagonist. Matt Bush as Johnny has one moment where he seems unhappy, but he gives a great and sweet performance here. You see that he lets himself get taken advantage of and he wants more, but he doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone. The acting is subtle and overall pretty good. The same goes for Kerry Bishé, the platonic love interest alternative Brooke. She could have been super hot sexy cool, but she’s cool and understated here. Not the love of Johnny’s life, but a stepping stone to something different.
Overall, Nice Guy Johnny is a fairly cliché movie that is just small and engaging enough to overcome the shortcomings. Nothing too complex or upsetting, but a really pleasant movie to watch.
There are a scant few special features that eventually make you salivate with filmy goodness. Included in the package are some deleted and extended scenes, which you can instantly understand why they’re cut. We also get original casting tapes from the movie with our two main stars, an EPK style interview with Ed Burns, and some very miscut teaser trailers that make the movie fall between a raunchy comedy and Garden State.
The real gem in this DVD is Ed Burns’s commentary track. Say whatever you want about the movie proper, but this commentary track is truly one of the most informative tracks I’ve listened to in ages. Burns (and occasionally his cinematographer and editor) come firing out of the gate with information on how to make a low budget movie. You find out financial figures ($25,000 production, $75,000 overall), what cameras they used, exactly how big their crew is, exactly how long the shoot was, what lenses are used, and even talks about who the extras are.
The chatter does not let up. Despite the fairly loose, light, and fluffy nature of the film proper, the track just shows how workmanlike Burns is here. His cinematographer talks about doing 20-something setups in 25 minutes during sundown. It’s clear that Burns has pride in his work, yet he delivers all of this information so matter-of-factly, it’s just downright interesting. He knows exactly how big this movie will be, yet he doesn’t care because he wants to make it. While the back of the DVD cover draws parallels to Woody Allen and Truffaut, this commentary reminds me more of Robert Rodriguez. He’s also not afraid to criticize his own performance in the movie, which in a product he is so clearly proud of, shows a real humility.
It makes me wish there were more filmmakers out there willing to work as small as Burns. It’s clear he’s not just an actor that makes movies, but a real, honest filmmaker, with a real passion for it. He doesn’t do it to make money, he does it to make the things he wants to make. Watching just the movie doesn’t particularly compel me to check out the rest of his filmography, but listening to this track makes me incredibly invested in whatever Burns does next.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars