One of the great things about Clint Eastwood films is that even the less famous iterations pack a punch. In the case of 1993's A Perfect World it does look like the only reason this is one of Eastwood less famous films is to do with its marketing, but still - a nice surprise is a nice surprise even when viewed the second time around.
Eastwood himself plays only a supporting role in A Perfect World, leaving the limelight to Kevin Costner. Costner is a runaway prisoner that dug himself a hole out of jail, but unlike the fellow prisoner with whom he broke out Costner has some brains on him as well as some morals. In order to allow for their escape the pair abducts a young boy from his single mother and takes him hostage, only that in this case they probably did the boy a favor: With his mother being a Jehovah's Witness, the boy seems to have never known fun in his life. Costner, on the other hand, an adult who knows where a bad father can lead you, immediately connects with the boy and something special takes place between them.
The setting has us back in the early sixties' Texas, just before President Kennedy gets shot. Chasing after the convicts is police chief Eastwood, accompanied by other police, FBI and a newly graduated extra smart criminologist, Laura Dern. Between them Dern and Eastwood's characters are the only ones that seem capable to understand what takes place over Costner's character; the rest are just blood thirsty. Between this blood thirst, the need to return the boy to his mother, the simple minded public, and Costner's vicious nature at the presence of the child abuse the "father and son" pair keeps on encountering on his quest to freedom, you know something has to go wrong.
The concept of a hostage that befriends their kidnapper is not the newest under the sun, but it works well in A Perfect World because of the superb acting: Kevin Costner gives what is probably his best performance ever, the child is very convincing, and Eastwood does his job perfectly. The result is a story that is both entertaining and touching, featuring a catch that's revealed later and sheds new light on events that are already interesting as they are. Thus, and in total contrast to his perceived image, A Perfect World provides us with a glimpse of a progressive thinking Eastwood long before the more obvious True Crime and Million Dollar Baby arrived.
Best scene #1: The boy reaches to hold the hand of a rather reluctant Costner. Shot from behind as the characters walk away from the camera, this is one memorable shot despite the short duration of the scene.
Best scene #2: At the end Clint Eastwood tells us that he knows nothing, not a damn thing. He says it so convincingly his acting almost takes over Costner's, reminding us that we are mostly ignorant about most things.
Overall: A Perfect World sits on the higher end of the 3.5 out of 5 stars' scale.