Those clamoring for more frontier justice served up by traveling circuit judge John Goodnight will be pleased as Hallmark brings us the third chapter in the popular Luke Perry franchise. The "Goodnight For Justice" series is exactly what one might expect from the Hallmark Channel and has succeeded largely due to the laconic charm of Perry. Soft spoken and laid back, our reluctant hero has an unwavering sense of idealism and plenty of moxie in a confrontation. It's easy to see why audiences appreciate this beacon of goodness and why Perry keeps returning to the role. That said, "Queen of Hearts" sticks pretty true to its non-threatening TV formula with gentle action, chaste romance, and lessons on tolerance and responsibility. But I suspect the core audience for which this film was intended wouldn't have it any other way. Heck, this isn't HBO's "Deadwood!" As such, the movie is mildly engaging. However, while I enjoyed it enough on its own terms, I don't know that I'd be rushing out to make a DVD purchase. My recommendation: check it out for free on the Hallmark Channel before deciding you want to own it.
In "Queen of Hearts," Goodnight meets his greatest challenge yet. Katherine Isabelle plays an alluring con artist who ensnares Perry (or does she?) with her feminine wiles. We know she's of dubious character from the get-go, but Perry is left to discover the fact as the movie progresses. Escaping the law and running from a dangerous stranger from her past, Isabelle misleads Perry as to her identity. Can she use our erstwhile hero to escape her crimes? As the two banter, there is clearly love in the air. But what will Perry do once he uncovers the whole truth? Ricky Schroder is a welcome presence as the man chasing down the pair. And while it's always good to see Schroder, there's not much shading to his villainous creation. Despite the inevitable confrontations, however, the bulk of "Queen of Hearts" plays out like an opposites attract romance.
While I liked the idea of pairing the upright Perry with the more mischievous Isabelle, it's not quite as successful as it might have been. The cat-and-mouse dynamic and verbal sparring falls a little flat. This rests squarely in the screenplay because the two actors were game. This should have been fun and frothy as the two different personalities battled for control and one-ups-manship, but it never really ignited fully (for me, anyway). Still, if you like the series in general, I'm guessing that you'll be willing to invest in this chapter as well. Solid enough, if not spectacular, I found the experience pleasing but I probably won't remember much about the movie in a couple of weeks. In the now, though, it was fine. I'd easily recommend watching it if you enjoyed the others, whether or not you want to own the DVD might be another matter. KGHarris, 4/13.