By Mary Lou Platt
A great new western is riding into town thanks to the Hallmark Movie Channel, which provides entertainment the whole family can enjoy. Goodnight for Justice is an engaging story of a somewhat roguish circuit judge who has a knack for dispensing “justice with a conscience.” The original movie premiering January 29 stars Luke Perry as Judge John Goodnight, and is directed by Jason Priestley.
The production is a reunion for the two 90210 alumni, and at a recent press conference, Perry and Priestley expressed their fondness for working together and for the western genre.
Perry says it’s easy for him to step into a Western role, with its no-nonsense quality, because of his upbringing in a small town in Ohio.
“I believe in justice, and I think it’s important to keep it simple,” he said.
In the Old West era of this movie, the judges were empowered to disregard all the nonsense from the lawyers who tried to obfuscate things.
“The judges got to cut through all that stuff and say ‘He’s guilty. She’s not. And this is how it’s going to be.’ That really appealed to me,” he said.
The straightforward Judge Goodnight character was actually created by Perry, who says, “I found that a character with the responsibility of being judge, jury, and executioner, would have a lot to carry around. And that was compelling for me. I share the viewpoint that justice is pretty simple. If something is wrong you just simply do what you can to try to right that.”
Priestley explains that the movie “takes place in a much simpler time.”
“The film was shot in British Columbia, which is where I’m from,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to work with people I know. It shot in a very quick time frame and we have wonderful shorthand because of the very long careers that Luke and I have together, that was very beneficial for us.”
The movie tells the tale of a young boy, John Goodnight, whose parents are ambushed on a stagecoach with a Circuit Judge and his wife. The outlaws take deadly aim, but boy survives along with the judge’s wife, who raises him. The story jumps ahead to Goodnight becoming a judge. He goes on his circuit rounds dispensing his common sense justice in small town courts. With the wisdom of Solomon, his sentences fit the crimes, and are often amusing.
After he returns to the place of his youth, Goodnight’s memory of the murderous outlaws is jogged, and he begins to seek justice for himself.
As a director, Priestley has the right touch of bringing the subtle sensibilities of Perry’s well-crafted role to the forefront. Perry also acted as executive producer and says that he hopes to turn the Goodnight character into a movie franchise.
“I’ve got stories in mind and talked to the folks at the Hallmark Channel about doing more,” he said. “It is now just a matter of scheduling.”
There is a shootout scene in the Old West town that Priestley says was a homage to the classic High Noon, and admits it was “one of the films that I watched a lot to actually take a lot of the visual cues from the movie for this.”
Perry explains, “You get to find little moments like that, which is one of the great things about doing westerns for me. You’ll see classic little touches, like a sign in town that says ‘A. Devine Dry Goods,’ referring to one of my favorite western character actors Andy Devine. I got to paint stuff like that on the building. I love doing that.”
It’s a good night for westerns with Goodnight for Justice.