****/**** Image B+ Sound A-
starring Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood, Laura Dern, T.J. Lowther
screenplay by John Lee Hancock
directed by Clint Eastwood
by Walter Chaw Time and distance have conspired to replace Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with A Perfect World in my mind as his best film and one of the best movies of the '90s. The two occur within a year of each other and mark, with In the Line of Fire between them, a renaissance of the Eastwood brand that had taken a few licks of late with embarrassments like Pink Cadillac, The Rookie, City Heat, Heartbreak Ridge, and on and on. While I was growing up, Eastwood was a Dirty Harry joke and the guy who acted with Orangutans. The first time I saw him in anything was in Bronco Billy, which, frankly, isn't the first time you want to see anyone in anything. What Unforgiven did for me was inspire a curiosity about Sergio Leone and, with that, a new reason to respect Eastwood's legacy; my first time through A Perfect World disturbed my notion of who Kevin Costner was (baseball player/cowboy) at the height of his power and sway in Hollywood, and I was distracted. Every time I've revisited A Perfect World since (and I've been compelled to revisit it at least once every few years), as Costner's star has faded and Eastwood's elder statesmanhood behind the camera has somehow dwarfed his iconhood in front of it, I feel the melancholy nostalgia of the film more and more. It's an American masterpiece. I make that distinction because it's distinctly American; and I mean it when I say that it's as fine an essay of the dying of an age as anything in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy.