Appellate Judge James A. Stewart likes justice, but he loves egg rolls.
"For a lawyer, justice is inconsequential. Victory is paramount."
For Circuit Judge John Goodnight (Luke Perry, Beverly Hills 90210), justice has to be important. He saw his parents (and a circuit judge) murdered by outlaws when he was young.
Goodnight for Justice, a TV movie made for the Hallmark Channel, reunites Perry with co-star Jason Priestley, who's working behind the camera as director. There's another familiar facade involved for fans of the Western series Bordertown: that show's British Columbia set is back in action.
Facts of the Case
After a night of drinking, John Goodnight is called to a meeting. It's not to disbar him; on the contrary, he's been posted to Wyoming as a circuit judge. There he rescues Kate Ramsey (Lara Gilchrist, Battlestar Galactica) from some bad guys. She gives him a hand, with testimony and a gun, when he retries Cheyenne, jailed unjustly by the corrupt town boss. Goodnight still wants revenge for his parents' deaths, though, and he may have to choose between love and justice.
Goodnight for Justice doesn't reinvent the Western. However, Luke Perry had a ball doing it, as he says in a bonus interview. Perry was also involved in the character development process. His wit as he dispenses bon mots with the verdicts is intentionally dry and soft-spoken, but it does look like he's enjoying himself with the fights and shootouts.
The script makes John Goodnight into a larger-than-life Western hero, adeptly shooting to kill in his first two tries, drinking hard, and making his verdicts as entertaining as they are wise. He's firm and brave, even as the town boss in Crooked Stick tells him, "You're not getting out of this town alive." In an interview, Jason Priestley thanks Ron Lea (Doc), who played the town boss, for not making the role a mustache-twirling caricature, and rightly so, with lines like that. However, the script does give Perry and Lara Gilchrist a few moments to shine and round out their characters, as a twist of fate in Goodnight's attempts to avenge his parents' murders could keep John and Kate apart.
Jason Priestley's direction is as soft-spoken as Luke Perry's performance, letting the actors drive the Western and keeping the familiar material from getting tiresome.
An "On Location" featurette is mainly a promo, but the interviews have some good quotes from Perry, Gilchrist, and Priestley. I enjoyed learning that "Uwe Boll burned down the train station" while filming in Bordertown, and Perry's zest for Western action comes through well. The TV movie isn't rated, but it's fairly mild. There's also a brief appearance by Winston Rekert, who may or not be familar from Adderly.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It could be said that Luke Perry and company didn't give justice to their stories when they blended Goodnight's defense of the Cheyenne with a revenge story. Maybe saving the revenge angle for a sequel would have made for two deeper pictures. Of course, it's still a fun movie, and that's a relatively small quibble.
I can't say this is a modern Western classic. However, Luke Perry and Lara Gilchrist handle a dramatic turn in their characters' relationship well enough to make Goodnight for Justice a nice diversion for Western fans.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
Review content copyright © 2011 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.