I really wanted Nice Guy Johnny to be Ed Burns’s best film. It’s his best made film. His composition of the Hamptons landscapes are singular. The incorporation of PT Walkey’s music is sublime. Burns even uses sped up film (or video) to great effect. If Burns did shoot Johnny on digital video, he and cinematographer William Rexer deserve a standing ovation.
The film is full of these incredibly precious moments–not at all saccharine–but these earnest, precious moments. The performances Burns gets out of newcomer leads Matt Bush and Kerry Bishé are phenomenal. Bush is clearly a talented comedic actor and Burns uses that ability–usually playing Bush off himself (Burns plays Bush’s aging loathario uncle to great effect). But there’s also this intense sadness Bush brings.
Bishé is completely different–I don’t think Burns has trusted one of his actors as much as he trusts Bishé since Brothers McMullen when he didn’t really have a choice. Bush isn’t the stand in for young Burns, it’s more like Bishé is taking that role (a gender reversal of McMullen actually). The result is this serious and thoughtful young woman who is genuinely unlike anything I’m used to seeing in films today.
Nice Guy Johnny reminded me a couple times of The King of Marvin Gardens and Badlands.
Unfortunately, the film only runs ninety minutes. Burns has done great work in that running time before… but Johnny needs more time.
I really hoped Burns would make it home; he almost does.