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A Perfect World


Solid direction by Clint Eastwood and the finest performance of Kevin Costner's career are the primary attractions of 1993's A Perfect World, a somber and atmospheric drama that takes crime drama and the buddy movie to a new and engaging level.

Kevin Costner plays Butch Haynes, a convict who escapes from prison with his buddy Terry Pugh (Keith Szarabajka) who find themselves having to take an 8 year old boy (TJ Lowther) as a hostage in order to begin their escape across the state of Texas, with a veteran Texas Ranger (Clint Eastwood), one of his officers (Bradley Whitford) and a criminalogist (Laura Dern) hot on their trail.

Eastwood has constructed a compelling story here and paints on a pretty broad canvas, serving John Lee Hancock's effective but problematic screenplay well. There are some issues with the story that bothered me, primarily regarding the relationship between Butch and his hostage. Stories of kidnappers and their hostages bonding are nothing new, but I was troubled by the way the bonding between the two characters was almost instantaneous. I would think that an 8 year old boy in such a situation would be terrified and resentful of his kidnapper and that a bonding between the two would be tentative and methodic, but this boy never seems to show any fear of Butch and seems to like this stranger without any reservations whatsoever. I guess this is supposed to be because this boy had no father in his life and it is revealed that neither did Butch and that is supposed to be the linchpin upon which this unlikely friendship hangs, but I couldn't buy it happening so quickly. I was also bothered that when Butch learned about the boy's father, he informed him that his father was a no good bum...I don't care what Butch's father was like or even if this was true, you don't say that to a child about his father, whether he's a slime bucket or not.

Eastwood really erred in the casting of Lowther as the boy as well...if I had seen this film when I did my Worst Child Performances list, this one would have been on it...one of the most wooden performances I have seen from a child in years...the kid just didn't seem to be invested in what he was doing and I'm not even sure he had his lines memorized. Eastwood did make up for it though with the casting of Kevin Costner as Butch. I have never enjoyed Costner onscreen this much, and that includes Bull Durham. This is a real movie star performance where Costner imbues a flawed character with so much likability that we almost forget at moments that this is a criminal but Hancock's screenplay never lets us forget, which makes what Costner does with the character all the more exciting to watch.

As always with Eastwood, he has employed a crack technical team in bringing this compelling tale to the screen..the film is beautifully photographed with Oscar-worthy cinematography, with nods to the editing and sound departments as well. I also had to mention I loved the moment where Butch pulls the car into an alley and next to him is a painted advertisement for Bull Durham cigarettes. Not a perfect film, but a wonderfully engaging drama well worth investing in.