Goodnight for Justice


Hallmark for Westerns

Goodnight for Justice

Main Cast: Luke Perry, Lara Gilchrist

Director: Jason Priestley

I constantly need to remind myself not to discriminate against genres.  Like everyone, I have my favorites and my not-so-favorites (I’m looking at you, romantic comedy) but I’m frequently surprised by how much I can enjoy something out of my normal realm of thrillers and depressing indie dramas.  For example, a made-for-TV western.  You just never know.

Really – you never know.  Goodnight for Justice is not something I would ever have picked up or even paused over while channel surfing.  Starring Luke Perry as John Goodnight, this Hallmark Channel western chronicles the attempt of one man to try and bring some order to the lawless early American west while struggling to find closure with his violent past.

John Goodnight is a troubled soul.  After seeing his parents killed by an outlaw as a child, he goes on to become a self-loathing lawyer who admires the law but not its administration and drowns his misery in a bottle.  After being selected (read: forced) to become a circuit judge in the wilds of Wyoming he finds himself feeling better about himself and his profession even as he searches for revenge upon the man responsible for the death of his parents.

I know, I know – it sounds awful.  But wait.  This is not a big budget, big screen over-reach.  It’s a small movie made for television based on characters created by Perry.  He brought in Jason Priestley to direct.  The pair long ago established their TV cred on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 and time hasn’t dulled their ability to create for the small screen.  The script is predictable and filled with clichés but it’s absolutely appropriate for its venue.  The character of John Goodnight is the uber-typical flawed hero with a heart of gold and sterling morals.  The townspeople he encounters in his role of judge are typical evil villains or typical stoic victims with a few comic idiots thrown in for variety.  As is typical he meets a girl that changes his loner attitude about life.  But in all its lack of originality there lies a basically good story that serves its purpose – the movie is entertaining.

Luke Perry excels in the tortured hero role.  It’s been his bread and butter since the days of Dylan McKay and he hasn’t lost his touch.  John Goodnight is generally quiet but well spoken and easy to like, especially as he crusades for the downtrodden and against ignorance and bigotry in the courtroom.  Lara Gilchrist as the love interest is cute and tough.

The period details of filth and squalor are fun and interesting.  The movie was filmed at a large old western set in Canada so easily sheds the sound stage feeling that too often plagues low budget productions.  The action is minimal but quite well done, with some fights and shoot-outs and other western tomfoolery.  Quite a bit of the fun bears the distinct twinkle of Jason Priestley’s eye.

Priestley began directing with episodes of 90210 and has a good eye not only for putting together an effective scene but also acknowledging the limits under which he’s working.  Never does Goodnight for Justice pretend to be anything but a small, entertaining and relatively light western.  Priestly knows what he’s making and makes the most of it, adding small sparks of silliness and excess that go a long way in tempering the sappy basic story.

I enjoyed Goodnight for Justice for exactly what it is – a TV movie period piece made to entertain and introduce some characters who might be clichés but as portrayed are likable enough to possibly support additional movies.  I would watch another installment without hesitation.  Definitely recommended for Luke Perry fans – you won’t be disappointed – or anyone looking for some easy entertainment, western style.  3 stars out of 5.

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