A Perfect World (1993)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Americana, Crime Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 24, 1993 (USA)  |   Run Time - 138 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Clint Eastwood followed up his Oscar-winning, critically acclaimed Unforgiven, the Western to end all Westerns, with another impressive, but grossly underappreciated work, A Perfect World. The film is portentously set in Texas in 1963, and it offers a compelling examination of the nature of American violence. Some Eastwood fans were probably put off by the fact that it's Kevin Costner who plays the traditional Eastwood part, the outlaw with a code of honor, while the man himself is relegated to playing, very effectively, the inept authority figure. In fact, by directing White Hunter, Black Heart, Unforgiven, and this film in succession, Eastwood demonstrated his willingness to critique his own status as an American icon, to an extent that few actors in such a position ever had. These films feature some of his best work as an actor, and there's not an unconditionally heroic figure in any of them. A Perfect World is probably the most moving of the three films, with the wonderful complexity of Kevin Costner's performance as the well-meaning but emotionally combustible Butch Haynes, playing off a touchingly naturalistic performance by child-actor T.J. Lowther as his entranced hostage, Phillip Perry. The film compellingly contrasts the uncontrollable violence of Haynes -- which arises from his own history of abuse and from his passionate beliefs -- with the calculated, state-sanctioned violence of the FBI sharpshooter, Bobby Lee (Bradley Whitford), whose cold competence in the name of ideology tellingly alludes to the contemporaneous assassination of President John F. Kennedy. With its well-drawn characters, its action and humor, and its moral complexity, A Perfect World is one of Eastwood's strongest films, as both an actor and a director.