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To put it plainly, Clint Eastwood is the best and most important of American filmmakers and I say this with much appreciation and respect for Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, and other influential American directors. This has been a thought that has forever been imbedded in my mind, and was only further cemented last night with my viewing of A Perfect World. Often criticized for being to dull or meandering in pace, Eastwood?s films have always been more classical in nature, exploring interpersonal relationships and important themes over forms of physical action.
Set along the Texas backroads, A Perfect World stars Kevin Costner as Butch Haynes, an escaped convict on the run who has taken Phillip, a young boy, hostage. On the opposite side of the law and hot on Haynes?s trail is Texas Ranger Red Garnett played by Eastwood, his deputies, and a young criminologist (Laura Dern). As the story unfolds, it is revealed that young Phillip?s situation isn?t too different from Haynes?s childhood, as both have grown up without a father at their side. A strong bond soon develops between the two, as Phillip begins to see Haynes as the father he never had. The title ?The Perfect World? comes from one of the earlier scenes in the film when an officer in discussing their pursuit of Haynes says, ?in a perfect world we?d all lock arms and thrash the bushes till he turned up?, to which Laura Dern?s character responds, ?In a perfect world things like this wouldn?t happen in the first place?.
It goes beyond saying that I have always admired Eastwood?s onscreen persona and once again he is impressive in this supporting role. The heart of A Perfect World lies in the performances of Kevin Costner and young newcomer J.T. Lowther. Costner seems to get a lot of slack around here, but personally he has always fascinated me with his involvement in projects ranging from JFK, The Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, and Open Range. Arguably his best and most complete performance however, is his role of Butch Haynes from A Perfect World.
A Perfect World attempts to look at the underlying nature of violence, drawing a deep line in the sand between the truly evil individual and one whose evil deeds have come as a result of past and almost unavoidable circumstances. Butch Haynes is not an evil man. While, he doesn?t represent the best man has to offer, but he certainly doesn?t represent the worst either. He had a miserable childhood, as we learn his father was largely absent from his life and that his mother was a prostitute. These are clearly not the ideal conditions for a child to grow up in and it is not entirely surprising that these circumstances produced a criminal. Butch Haynes killed two people in his life: One who hurt is mother and another who was about to harm young Phillip. His past do not forgive him for his violent actions, but in examining these circumstances it is relatively easy to see how these forms of violence came about.