Tag Archives: A Perfect World

Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World

Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World is a damn near perfect film but it’s a far cry from the kind of thing he was often starring in during the early and mid portions of his career. This is the story of Texas Ranger Red Garnett (Eastwood) and his multi-state pursuit of escaped convict Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner), who has kidnapped a young boy (T.J. Lowther in one of the finest child actor performances I’ve seen) That description might make the film come across as a breathless thriller, machismo soaked Mano a Mano or souped up car chase picture but none of the above are the case. What Eastwood brings us instead is a quiet, sad, eccentric, painfully realistic and meandering rumination on human nature, the corrosive dynamics of the US law enforcement and justice systems and the downward spiral of lost souls subjected to terrible foster care, abuse and neglect. It *is* a chase picture of sorts but no one is in a huge hurry to get anywhere, least of all Red who literally follows Butch around in a confiscated Winnebago, eating tater tots with an idealistic criminologist played by the wonderful Laura Dern. Butch is a hardened criminal but made that way but his experience of the world around him and not an evil man as we see juxtaposition between him and his fellow escapee Terry (Keith Szarabajka, terrifying) who is genuinely a sadistic individual. Red has dealt with Butch years before and thinks that they can both draw on this past experience to resolve the situation with a modicum less of violence than needed, but the many factors involved make this difficult and complex. Eastwood is terrific as Red, a laconic, pragmatic and quietly soulful gunslinger who would rather talk things out than use cast iron brutality against anyone but knows full well that with a child in the crossfire it will almost certainly escalate past words. This may be Costner’s finest performance to date as Butch, he loads his portrayal with uncannily calibrated complexity and long buried trauma that bubbles out when triggered in emotionally devastating outbursts that showcase true intuition and organic cultivation of his craft. Watch as Butch observes a kindly farmer they’re staying with scold his son with violence and see how quick Costner goes from a low simmer to full on destructive hysteria as the childhood memories roil up inside him. Eastwood populates his cast with a well varied range of faces including Bruce McGill, Ray McKinnon, Leo Burmester, Bradley Whitford, Jennifer Griffin and more. This might be the most overlooked film in his career and I can understand that as it’s difficult, unconventional and forces you to see human beings in a series of violent events free from the sensationalistic, predestined grooves of action or thriller genres but just as they are in the real world: complicated, tough to understand, arbitrarily instigated and put to rest and, just like the world we live in itself, eternally ponderous and bereft of cathartic, tuck-you-in-at-night conflict resolution. One of the best film of the century.

-Nate Hill