LONE JUSTICE, starring Daniel Baldwin as a small-town sheriff in 1870s Texas, is rich in both period and character detail, but unnecessarily sprawling in its scope.
Twelve-year-old Ned Blessing (Sean Baca) is traveling with his father, Anthony Blessing (Chris Cooper), through the American Southwest. One day, they run afoul of a rancorous bandit king named Brute Half-Tongue (Miguel Sandoval), who shoots Anthony for sport and leaves him for dead. Ned finds
himself the prisoner of Brute's bandit army; a wily healer named Crecencio (Luis Avalos) takes him on as assistant cook. To save the boy from Brute's wrath, Crecencio gives Ned some gypsum weed, which slows his pulse and breathing. Thinking him dead, the bandits toss him into a gully. Young Ned
then sets out to search for his father, whom he eventually finds in a bar. He's now a hopeless alcoholic, but Ned and a young beauty named Jilly Blue (Taylor Fry) attempt to nurse him back to health. For a brief time, the three live together happily as a ramshackle family. But then Anthony's
health becomes so dire that Ned returns to Crecencio to beseech him for a cure. Crecencio slips the entire camp some gypsum weed, allowing Ned to spirit away Brute's cache of gold. However, Jilly Blue has been kidnapped in his absence and is bound for Europe with the local piano player.
Ned, now a grown man (Baldwin), is next seen as the popular sheriff of Plum Creek in East Texas. By chance, he discovers that Jilly Blue is scheduled to perform at an Austin dance hall, and sets out to reunite with his soul-mate. Sparks fly with the full-grown Jilly (Julia Campbell), and they
announce their intention to marry before the day is done. But then comes word that the evil Tors Buckner (Jeff Kober) and his gang are shooting up Blessing's town. Blessing leaves word with Jilly's patron and benefactor, a French marquis (Rene Auberjonois), that something's come up, and rides back
to Plum Creek, just in time to witness a massacre that leaves 17 townspeople dead.
Buckner and his gang make off with the town's spoils, taking Anthony Blessing as a hostage. The photos inside Anthony's pocket watch spark some sort of memory in Buckner, and the outlaw shoots him down. At the last second, recognition flickers in the elder Blessing's eyes, implying some unspoken
business between them. Later that night, he dies in Ned's arms without managing to convey his secret. In a voice-over, Ned discloses that the marquis never gave Jilly his message, but married her instead, and that he subsequently dedicated himself to tracking the Buckner gang to the ends of the
LONE JUSTICE is actually the abortive pilot for the short-lived CBS series "Ned Blessing," which ran for six episodes as a summer replacement in 1993, and was briefly restored to the network schedule mid-season. The series was the brainchild of Texan William Wittliff, the man who adapted Larry
McMurtry's Lonesome Dove as a miniseries and wrote the Willie Nelson vehicles BARBAROSA (1982) and THE RED-HEADED STRANGER (1987). However, this film, released to home video in 1994, was never aired on television: after dismal test results, the pilot was recast, with Brad Johnson in the title
role, and reshot from an almost identical script.
Reflecting its pedigree, the piece is suitably steeped in Texas history and myth (the Commanche uprising at Plum Creek remains one of the stations of the cross for Texas writers, and serves as the basis for the atavistic surrealism of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian). But the narrative structure,
designed to launch a weekly series, fails to provide satisfactory closure. Far too much time--over half the picture--is spent on backstory, and enough unanswered questions are raised in both the first and the last five minutes to subvert the rest of the tale. More curiosity than bona fide
accomplishment, this odd picture may be of some interest for its origins in what amounts to a parallel universe. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: R
- Review: LONE JUSTICE, starring Daniel Baldwin as a small-town sheriff in 1870s Texas, is rich in both period and character detail, but unnecessarily sprawling in its scope. Twelve-year-old Ned Blessing (Sean Baca) is traveling with his father, Anthony Blessing (C… (more)