Friday 20 April 2012


Bruce Springsteen. Van Morrison. Talking about my favourite musicians is easy. When it comes to films, especially in this day and age, it's harder. Because the writer's voices get diluted, the directors visions get fragmented into the wishes of twenty people. Finding singular voices is hard. But in an industry of compromised auteurs and pay-cheque hacks, Edward Burns stands strong. I LOVE his movies. They're not for everybody, in fact they're hardly seen by anybody -- but he has his niche. We are in an era where you can build a career around your niche.

This film is about that precise moment in your life when you have to make a decision --- follow your dreams, or compromise. On the one hand, Johnny (Matt Bush) can continue his job as a late night sports show presenter on the radio, or on the other hand he can go to New York and take the job with his fiancee's father. The job is depressing, but he'd earn $50,000 and keep his wife-to-be happy. And Claire (Anna Wood) terrifies me, because she's the girl I fear I'll end up with. The one who would say "Take the job at the cardboard factory, I only want you to do it because I love you!". Aghhh; it scares the hell out of me. That's why I'm so useless at relationships, cause I'm terrified they'll erode my creativity, make me turn into something else.

Turning into something else is the easy route, the path of least resistance. That's why the film rings so true. The hardest thing in the world for Johnny is to stand up and say "I'm a radio DJ! I earn no money but THIS IS MY DREAM!". He can't do it. Instead; the whole film is about him faltering under the pressure of people who think his dream should be something else; they think it should be the cardboard job and a huge pay-cheque.

Uncle Terry (Edward Burns) is flawed, he's not perfect. But he's a guy who can see his nephew Johnny is having the soul ripped out of him. Edward Burns is a great actor; especially when he's in his own films; every friggin' moment rings true. That's the thing with all the characters in this movie. I feel like I know them, I want to hang out with them, maybe I even want to be them. That's what a great movie is -- when you look up at the screen and think yes, that is me. That's fucking me! There I am! That's my journey, that's my struggle!

It's about the actors. That's not always true in Hollywood, because often the concept is king. But in 'Nice Guy Johnny', it's the actors domain. Whenever I see Matt Bush and Kerry Bishé on screen, I feel like I know them. That's a weird thing to say, because I've only seen Kerry in three movies (the others being 'Red State', and another Ed Burns film, 'Newlyweds'). In 'Newlyweds', she's a messed up bitch; has all sorts of issues. In 'Nice Guy Johnny', she's loveable, she's intriguing. But not in a boring way like most movies; but in a complicated way. The same thing with Matt's character --- sure, he's a nice guy to a fault, but you get to see how complicated that is!

My point is that Edward Burns, Matt Bush, Kerry Bishé, they're real actors. They can nail a character, yet you also get a sense of their humanity - who they really are. That's what you get when you see an Edward Burns movie. They're down to earth, they're honest, they're New York. These films will never take over the mainstream, because that's not where the audience is at anymore. But there is an audience for it; a real fan base, and they're hooked.

Care to share?


  1. Now I'm itching to go find this movie to watch. I'm not sure I've seen ANY of Mr. Burns movies, but I'll be sure to look out for him now - thanks!

  2. Kerry Bishé so beautiful i have to see this movie.

  3. I’ve seen every one of Edward Burns’ films, I just love his work to death. As a budding filmmaker, his films are an inspiration. While they may not be the kind of movies that garner awards attention, it’s impossible for me to deny that the circumstances surrounding the making of his most recent film, Newlyweds, didn’t have an enormous influence on me.

    Anyhow, sorry, I’m just a big big fan, and I LOVE when other bloggers bring attention to him. Nice Guy Johnny is a film I should in no way like. It just isn’t my cup of tea. Yet I am undeniably drawn to it. Sure, it has its faults, but it, like most of Burns’ films, just makes me feel good.

    You’re right: these films focus on the actors, to the point that they will never be mainstream. But you’re also right, Burns’ fanbase is dedicated and hooked.

  4. I became familiar with Ed Burns during the release of his latest movie, Newlyweds, but can't say that I've seen his previous directing work. I've only watched movies that he appeared in as an actor such as Saving Private Ryan.

    His movie "Groomsmen" was the only flick that I considered watching but after reading your review on "Nice Guy Johnny," I think I may plan on renting more than one Burns flick. I'm not sure if I'll ever watch "Newlyweds" though for any reason other than see the results of a crowdsourced and crowdfunded film that he put together with the help of his fans, who also had a hand in the casting process.

    I watched an interview with Ed Burns on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show on NBC and found it rather cool that he was able to successfully release a film digitally on iTunes rather than going the theatrical route. I mean, the whole thought of a film sorta 'Coming soon to an iTunes store near you!' is a lot different than the way studios release more mainstream films. Going a different route worked for Burns, so that's great! If anything, it might just get me to use iTunes more often, lol.

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