Friday, February 11, 2011
"A Perfect World:" Clint guzzles Geritol in the background
Title: A Perfect World
Genre: Escaped convict buddy movie
Notable for: Creating the illusion Clint is paired with Kevin Costner
Coolest thing Clint does: Sucker punches a fellow cop for being trigger happy
The most fundamental thing expected from any movie starring Clint Eastwood is this: It should star Clint Eastwood. "A Perfect World" fails that test.
Clint has second billing behind Kevin Costner, which is false advertising. He plays a relatively small supporting part and never appears in a scene with Costner until more than two hours into the movie. If Hollywood was fair, Clint would have third billing behind a little kid and probably fourth behind Laura Dern.
"A Perfect World" is not a Clint Eastwood movie. It is a Kevin Costner movie directed by Clint.
On the up side, it's a very good story and Costner was never better in any role. Sez us, that's who.
Costner is a hardened criminal who busts out of a Texas prison with a psychotic creep sometime in the mid 1960s. One man is killed during the escape, and the convicts take a shy 8-year-old boy hostage.
Violent, yes, but Costner is not exactly evil. He saves the boy's mother from rape and kills his psycho partner for attacking the kid.
The hostage and Costner bond in a father-figure way.
"Are you going to shoot me?" the kids asks. Costner answers, "No, hell no. You and me are friends."
The boy chooses to stay with Costner when he could be released, and he breaks out of his introverted shell a little. In one odd touch probably dripping with symbolism or overtones of duality or something else equally beyond us, the kid steals a Halloween costume and is dressed for most of the movie as Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Clint is a Texas Ranger in charge of the manhunt. Dirty Harry he is not. He pursues Costner while swigging Geritol and riding in an Airstream trailer taken from the governor's campaign organization.
When he is on camera, Clint says things like, "We'll check every road and every farm between San Angelo and Sweetwater." He decides to eat the governor's T-bone steaks and Tater Tots, declaring, "I do like Tater Tots."
The co-star in Clint's scenes is Laura Dern, who plays a hot-shot criminologist assigned to the manhunt. That's highly unrealistic for a young female in Texas circa 1965, but we're willing to roll with it. Dern first dismisses Clint as "a hillbilly Sherlock Holmes" but eventually warms to him in a professional way.
Dern provides detailed background on Costner's difficult childhood and early run-ins with the law. This leads to the revelation that as a young lawman Clint encountered Costner and took a hard line that perhaps sent him deeper into life of crime.
The inevitable confrontation comes when Costner is already injured after being gut-shot by the boy in a very intense scene we did not see coming. Clint talks Costner into giving himself up, but then a cop sniper shoots Costner dead in violation of Clint's order to hold his fire.
Two hours and 19 minutes into the film, Clint finally gets furious. He punches the sniper cop square in the nose, then Dern kicks him in the nuts.
Fresh off his best-director Oscar for "Unforgiven," the movie probably reflects the start of Clint's preference to concentrate on directing more than acting. In that way, it's the dawn of a new era in Clinthood.
Well, it had to happen sometime. We cannot expect a man old enough to drink Geritol to do all the heaving lifting.
Next up: "Bridges of Madison County."