A Perfect World

On the run from the Texas Rangers in 1963, an escaped convict (Kevin Costner) develops a close friendship with the seven-year-old boy (T.J. Lowther) he takes hostage; Clint Eastwood, who directed, stars as the leader of the Rangers, and Laura Dern plays a savvy, no-bullshit criminologist assisting in the manhunt (1993). A good two-part character study with a terrific performance by Lowther and fine work by Costner that should help resuscitate his image after too many Boy Scout projects, this bogs down when it aims for too much psychology and pathos and arrives at a few false moments and more than a few overextended ones. John Lee Hancock’s script has too many good guy-bad guy setups, and the suave period handling doesn’t always extend to the characters’ behavior, but Eastwood is generally so good at handling narrative, savoring Texas settings, and molding performances that you aren’t likely to mind much. The critique of macho and flawed father figures that he’s been preoccupied with at least since White Hunter, Black Heart continues to be pungent and thoughtful. (JR)

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