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>
In 1952, Charles Crichton had produced a successful suspenseful movie with a derivative premise: a man (an excellent Dirk Bogarde) compelled to take a brat hostage with him because he was the witness of his murder and to flee with him across Britain to escape the police. This journey had brought the two runaways together and Bogarde eventually felt real love and care for his young hostage. Crichton (I find it hard to believe that it's the same man who 36 years later will cook "a Fish Called Wanda", 1988!) had construed his topic with a lot of reserve and sensitivity which bestowed his wonderful piece of work with pathos and tenderness.
40 years later, Clint Eastwood, freshly showered with praise for his dusky "Unforgiven" (1992) takes back this formula for a flick which basically was to be directed by Steven Spielberg but the latter had a lot to do with "Schindler's List" (1994), probably his finest moment. The amount was "a Perfect World" (1993) and it deserves better than the lukewarm reviews it received and stands as a winner in Eastwood's eclectic filmography. In spite of a few installments in its second part that one can deem as overlong, it has enough commendable stuff to grab the audience.
First, Eastwood's vehicle is helped by the work of John Lee Hancock who 4 years later will pen the scenario for another Eastwood flick: "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (1997). Because it eschews the formulaic ingredients of the movie genre, "a Perfect World" deals with and it encompasses various tones: from the droll moments Kevin Costner goes through with his young hostage to gripping scenes which incommodes the audience (the scene when Costner holds the black family in their living room with a song he hadn't heard for years), the script takes the viewer by surprise. It's true that suspense takes a back seat during most of the viewing but Eastwood's flick has other stuff in store. In the favorable reviews, it has been said that the relationships between Costner and his young partner were highly interesting. From their first confrontation, Costner has an evident interest in the little boy, a nagging curiosity that will grow throughout his run. In this way, his attitude, at least in the outset of the film is quite different from Bogarde's. The latter realizing that he has no other choice to take his brat with him expresses at first hostility and scorn before starting to get interested in him. Not Costner who is clearly interested with his hostage from the outset and for whom he feels affection. In the two flicks, the little boys may see in Bogarde and Costner the father figures they never had. Their households are characterized by an absence of father. As for Costner, he unveils to his partner, scraps of his anterior life which might explain one of his attitudes towards him. Maybe, he tries to play his role of father and this way to get close to him: "we have a lot of things in common you and me: we love Coke, we never had father". He wants to make him discover a new life, a freer and more maverick one in which anything goes (he asks him to write the things he craves to do).
Nature plays a momentum role in "a Perfect World": it surrounds the characters and is of a vivacious green which symbolizes bliss and hope. In this perfect world, the two main protagonists try to search for support, friendship, bliss but impending danger waits around the corner.
Eastwood's flick was also decried because the other sequences of the film in which Eastwood and his crew appear were rather weak. I don't think so. True the character of Laura Dern is a little formulaic but in one sequence the most important members offer their vision of a perfect world. And even if here he doesn't hold the main role, Clint Eastwood has a prime secondary part. The cast is a major asset of the film. The little boy is directed with care and respect and Eastwood gave Costner his last great hour, given the duds in which he acted afterward: the horrible "Waterworld" (1995), a waste of money and time and the insipid "Postman" (1997).
Coming after a pinnacle in his career, "Unforgiven", I feel that Eastwood wasn't hampered by this critical and commercial triumph and broke new ground in the fugitive movie with this startling piece of work. Give this movie a chance. It deserves it. And if you have the chance to see "Hunted", don't think twice. Eastwood's flick compares favorably with its 40 year old model. And after the projection, try to ask yourself this question: what is a perfect world?
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