This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
"A Perfect World" contains a prison break, the taking of a hostage, a chase across Texas, two murders, various robberies, and a final confrontation between a fugitive and a lawman. It is not really about any of those things, however. It's deeper and more interesting than that. It's about the true nature of violence and about how the child is father to the man.
The film brings together the leading icons of two generations of strong, silent American leading men: Kevin Costner, as a fugitive who takes a boy as a hostage, and Clint Eastwood, as the Texas Ranger who leads the pursuit. But the Costner character doesn't seem really focused on his escape, and the Eastwood character seems somewhat removed from the chase. These two men first met long ago, and they both know this isn't about a chase. It's about old, deep wounds.
This is a movie that surprises you. The setup is such familiar material that you think the story is going to be flat and fast. But the screenplay by John Lee Hancock goes deep. And the direction by Clint Eastwood finds strange, quiet moments of perfect truth in the story.
Both Costner and Eastwood are fresh from triumphs at the Academy Awards, but in neither "Dances with Wolves" nor "Unforgiven" will you find the subtlety and the sadness they discover here. Eastwood has directed 17 films, but his direction is sometimes taken less seriously because he's a movie star. "A Perfect World" is a film any director alive might be proud to sign.