Jason Priestley directs Luke Perry!” hardly sounds like an earthshaking headline, but that “90210” reunion angle is about all Hallmark Movie Channel has to offer by way of selling “Goodnight for Justice,” a by-the-numbers Western sewn together from patches of better movies. Perry is earnest enough in the title role, and older folks like Westerns, so this will probably perform reasonably well by Hallmark’s standards. But yikes, pardner, this swaybacked nag is worth riding only if it’s a one-horse town.
A lawyer by profession, Perry’s John Goodnight is named a circuit judge near the outset, before we flash back to discover his tortured past ( he saw his parents killed as a boy). So while he travels the territory dispensing justice both as a jurist and with his gun, he’s on the lookout for a middle-aged man with a limp who killed ma and pa.
“Just remember there’s a difference between justice and revenge,” he’s told.
For about half the movie, Goodnight travels from place to place, righting wrongs, defending the defenseless and occasionally wooing the ladies. The tone is mostly light and episodic, but there’s darkness to come.
Goodnight finally lands in the town of Crooked Stick — run by the requisite evil landowner (Ron Lea) — after a damsel-saving run-in with a comely widow (Lara Gilchrist). It’s here, inevitably, where he’ll be forced to make a stand against injustice (directed at Native Americans) and perhaps find clues about the quest that has motivated him.
Perry isn’t particularly well cast as a laconic cowboy (though he did play one previously in Hallmark’s 2009 remake of “Angel and the Badman”), but he comes across pretty well compared with the rest of the cast. Then again, trying to find actual characters in Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky’s hackneyed script would give De Niro and Streep a run for their money.
The traditional rap on Westerns is they skew old and rural, which isn’t particularly thrilling to advertisers. Still, when you churn out fare like this — including stunts straight out of the Universal Studios tour, as guys fall off balconies — those demographics become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Goodnight for Justice” looks like a Western, but it’s a bit like one of those ghost towns with nothing behind the facades. And while those tuning in will indeed kill a night, it won’t be a particularly good one.