After escaping from a Huntsville prison, convict Butch Haynes and his partner Terry Pugh kidnap a young boy, Philip Perry, and flee across Texas. As they travel together, Butch and Philip discover common bonds and suffer the abuses of the outside "Perfect World." In pursuit is Texas Ranger "Red" Garnett and criminologist Sally Gerber. Written by
James Yu <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Undervalued a decade ago, this film is better than Eastwood's other heralded directorial efforts.
Do not confuse any of the archived reviews by national critics labeling this movie as "mediocre" and merely "watchable" as accurate statements. This movie is one of Eastwood's most interesting and controlled efforts behind the camera. There is less blatant scenery chewing in "A Perfect World" than contained in Eastwood's unduly praised "Mystic River." And although "Unforgiven" brought Eastwood an Oscar, "A Perfect World" is much more effective in its employment of Eastwood's usual methodical pacing and his ability create empathy for men who are "bad, but not the worst" of society.
For those that are not Costner-philes, this is one of the few movies that viewers should be unable to find ways to deride Costner as an actor. Costner's performance as Butch is by far the best of his career. Actually, it would be better to note that his performance is nomination worthy (er... was) simply for the fact that I know many people view Costner as a flat actor that is not really on par with other actors of his generation. The scenes between Costner and his young costar are extremely interesting. Butch is given almost all the dialogue because eight-year-old Phillip is more or less a pupil of Butch's (or surrogate son if one thinks of the blatant implications); thus, this movie almost entirely belongs to Costner and the development of his character and he does a pitch perfect job.
The movie itself has some simplicities in its other characters, such as Eastwood's Ranger, Dern's criminologist, and the gaggle of law enforcement personal tracking Costner's character. John Lee Hancock's script is not the strongest when focusing in on their additions to the narrative. Plus there are some overly simplistic social commentaries on the role of the penal system, but those are far outweighed by the mass of the film. And Eastwood works around the few weaknesses of the script much better than he did in Hancock's adaptation of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
Considering that Eastwood is a competent director who has created mostly middling works or has been praised for efforts that are far exceeded by the scripts themselves, such as "Unforgiven" and "Mystic River," "A Perfect World" is quite a good film. Also of note is the cinematography and framing of all the shots. Almost all of Eastwood's films, regardless of the shot and lighting conventions of the genres in which he has worked, are terribly sloppy and poor in their presentation. Jack N. Green has been his longtime cinematographer of choice; therefore, it is not as if a new voice was thrown into the mix adding to the success of this film visually in comparison with Eastwood's other works. Nonetheless, Eastwood succeeds in much of his direction in this film and
Costner's performance makes this film a nice little gem that was undervalued a decade ago.
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