A PERFECT WORLD is set in Texas in 1963. Working from John Lee Hancock’s original script, Clint Eastwood crafts a subtle and haunting work that features what is perhaps Kevin Costner’s best performance.
Costner plays against type as Butch Haynes, an escaped convict whose tendency toward violence is masked by his affability. Haynes escapes with a more blatantly dangerous convict, Terry Pugh, planning to ditch him as soon as they cross the border. But Pugh’s lack of self-control gets them in trouble, and they take a young boy hostage. Raised by his single mother, a Jehovah’s Witness, Phillip Perry (T.J. Lowther, in a heartbreakingly real performance) is fascinated by Haynes’s roughneck ways, and the two form a surprisingly strong bond.
Eastwood takes a supporting role as Red Garnett, the lawman who, ineptly but inevitably, is closing in on Haynes. With a woman criminologist (Laura Dern) and a trigger-happy federal agent along for the ride, Garnett chases Haynes down while keeping their shared past a secret from his team. Following WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART and UNFORGIVEN, A PERFECT WORLD shows Eastwood as a filmmaker at the absolute height of his creative powers. A PERFECT WORLD is one of his boldest works.