Last night, Hallmark Movie Channel premiered the Jason Priestley-directed Western Goodnight for Justice. It stars Luke Perry, who developed the idea for a movie about a character named John Goodnight, a lawyer who becomes the circuit judge for the deadly Wyoming territory. There, as a boy, he witnessed the murders of his parents and a circuit judge. The judge’s wife raised John as her own, and got him the appointment because she thinks he’ll drink and fight himself to death unless he finds the outlaw and gets closure. Along the way, he proves himself a decent man and a fair judge, seeing through chauvinists and bigots. He also meets Lara Gilchrist’s Kate – a talkative women, so we think of Goodnight as the classic strong, silent type when he’s not delivering monologues in court – who turns out to be the daughter of the man who killed his family.
Now I reviewed the movie in Entertainment Weekly’s What to Watch section, but in 45 words, it’s tough to explain why I gave it a C+. I appreciate anyone who appreciates Westerns – my dream movie experience is seeing Red River at a drive-in – and Perry’s commitment to the role is obvious, as is his passion for it. The first time I watched it, I giggled. There’s just something funny about hearing his slow, breathy Dylan McKay voice in the Wild West. That’s not Perry’s fault. But it’s a fact, and I imagine I’m not the only person who took much of the film to get over it. By the end, however, I was just chuckling when Goodnight said something funny, and Perry’s forehead lines and hairy chest won me over. (I love to think of Priestley directing his old friend in those shirtless scenes – first a bath, then some heavy kissing after Kate sewed up a gunshot wound. Why couldn’t Montgomery Clift have been shirtless in that Red River rain scene with Joanne Dru?). When John told Kate to hold on to his mother’s wedding ring (the one her father had stolen and given to her as a child after the murders) because he’d be back, I was okay with Priestley and Perry setting up a possible sequel. I just hope we don’t need any cheesy close-ups on Perry signifying we are about to get a flashback in the next one, because Goodnight has closure now. Also, maybe they can get a score that doesn’t sound so much like a Hallmark movie.
So what do you say? Do you want to see John Goodnight again? Or should he just ride off into the sunset?