A Perfect World
|A Perfect World|
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Produced by||Mark Johnson
|Written by||John Lee Hancock|
|Music by||Lennie Niehaus|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Edited by||Joel Cox
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
A Perfect World is a 1993 drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Kevin Costner as an escaped convict who befriends a young boy (T.J. Lowther), and ends up embarking on a road trip with the child. Eastwood co-stars as a Texas Ranger in pursuit of the convict.
In 1963 Texas, convicts Robert "Butch" Haynes (Kevin Costner) and Jerry Pugh (Keith Szarabajka) escape from the state penitentiary in Huntsville. Fleeing, the pair stumble into a house where eight-year old Phillip Perry (T.J. Lowther) lives with his devout Jehovah's Witness mother and two sisters. Needing a hostage to aid their escape, Butch grabs the boy, who meekly accompanies them. The trio's journey starts off on an unpleasant note as Butch shoots Jerry, following the latter's attempt to molest the child. With his partner out of the way, the convict and his young victim take to the Texas highway in a bid to flee from the pursuing police.
Meanwhile, Texas Ranger Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood), riding in the Governor's airstream trailer, is in pursuit. With criminologist Sally Gerber (Laura Dern) and trigger-happy FBI sharpshooter Bobby Lee (Bradley Whitford) in tow, Red is determined to recover the criminal and the hostage before they cross the Texas border. Butch and Phillip try to make it to New Mexico, but find out that the highway they are driving on is unfinished.
Phillip, eight years old, has never participated in Halloween or Christmas celebrations. Escaping with Butch, however, he experiences a freedom which he finds exhilarating, as Butch gladly allows him the kind of indulgences he has been forbidden all along, including the wearing of a shoplifted Casper the Friendly Ghost costume. Gradually, Phillip becomes increasingly aware of his surroundings, and with constant encouragement from Butch, seems to acquire the ability to make independent decisions on what is wrong and right.
For his part, Butch slowly finds himself drawn into giving Phillip the kind of fatherly presence which he himself never had. While asleep in their car in a cornfield, they encounter Mack, a farmer and his family, Lottie his wife, and his grandson Cleveland. Mack frequently abuses Cleveland, which Butch puts a stop to. Now that they know who Butch is, he seems to plan on killing them, but Phillip shoots him and gets out of the house. He drops the gun into a well, throws the car keys away and runs across a meadow. Butch follows him and rests at the tree Phillip has climbed. In the following dialogue Phillip apologizes for shooting Butch who tells him he did the right thing.
Red's team surrounds the place where Phillip and Butch are situated, the latter sending the boy away to his mother, who is with Red's team. Unwilling to leave the already wounded Butch, the boy runs back and hugs him – a gesture which, along with his knowledge of Butch's character and background, convinces Red that he can resolve the situation peacefully. His plans are thwarted, however, when Bobby Lee, mistaking one of Butch's gestures to suppose he is about to draw a gun, fires a shot into his chest and kills him. The move leaves Red angry and frustrated at his inability to save Butch and take him alive. Red punches Bobby Lee and walks away. Phillip is reunited with his mother, and the two of them fly away in a helicopter.
- Kevin Costner as Butch Haynes
- Clint Eastwood as Red Garnett
- Laura Dern as Sally Gerber
- T.J. Lowther as Philip Perry
- Keith Szarabajka as Jerry Pugh
- Leo Burmester as Tom Adler
- Paul Hewitt as Dick Suttle
- Bradley Whitford as Bobby Lee
- Ray McKinnon as Bradley
- Mary Alice as Lottie
- Wayne Dehart as Mack
- Linda Hart as Eileen
While Eastwood was making In the Line of Fire, he was given the screenplay to A Perfect World. He was also in the midst of campaigning for the Academy Awards with Unforgiven and saw A Perfect World as an opportunity to work as a director only and take a break from acting. However, when Kevin Costner was approached with the screenplay for the movie, he suggested that Eastwood would be perfect for the role of Texas Ranger Red Garnett. Eastwood agreed, realizing that his screentime would not be as significant, leaving most of the time to work behind the camera.
A Perfect World was released in United States theaters in November 1993, grossing $31.1 million in box office receipts in the United States with an international gross of $104 million for a total of $135.2 million. The film received largely positive reviews, with an 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews. The film won considerable praise for its emotional depth and accurate depiction of the psychology of hostage situations. Kevin Costner's subtly nuanced portrayal of the escaped convict Butch Haynes forms the cornerstone of the film's success and has been hailed as one of the actor's finest performances yet. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a film any director alive might be proud to sign," while The New York Times hailed it as "a deeply felt, deceptively simple film that marks the high point of Mr. Eastwood's directing career thus far."
In the years since its release, the film has been acclaimed by critics as one of Eastwood's most satisfying (albeit underrated) directorial achievements, and the scenes between the convict (Costner) and his young captive (T. J. Lowther) have been acknowledged as some of the most delicately crafted sequences in all of Eastwood's body of work. Cahiers du cinéma selected A Perfect World as the best film of 1993.
- Hughes, p.84
- Hughes, p.85
- "A Perfect World – A Film Review" by James Berardinelli
- Maslin, Janet (November 24, 1993). "Reviews/Film: A Perfect World; Where Destiny Is Sad and Scars Never Heal". The New York Times.
- "A Perfect World". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Hinson, Hal (November 24, 1993). "‘A Perfect World’". The Washington Post.
- Cahiers du Cinema – Best Movies 1951 – 2008
- A Perfect World at the Internet Movie Database
- A Perfect World at Rotten Tomatoes
- A Perfect World at Box Office Mojo