• Directed by Richard Donner
  • May 20, 1994
  • Based on the 1957–1962 television series Maverick created by Roy Huggins

Maverick faces various problems as he collects money to enter a high stakes poker tournament.

I often lament modern Westerns which for me is anything made after the mid 70s. For decades the revisionist Western has held sway in Hollywood and turned the genre into, well, mostly crap. Maverick is a bright spot in that. Maverick is what creators can get when they decide to have fun with a Western and not populate it with terrible people. It’s not a mythmaking Western but just a fun Western and we really need more of that. It’s unfortunate this is a rare example in the 30 years since it came out.

Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) is a different kind of Western hero. He runs from a fight and tricks others to get out of a dangerous situation. In fact he’s rather adverse to using his fists or a gun and would choose instead to use his brain to get what he’s after. He is not some cold killer or moralistic hero. He is a bit of a coward looking for fun. This is a very different character than is usually found in much of anything with an action bent.

I doubt there is anyone that could have played a charming conman when this movie came out better than Mel Gibson could have. His Bret Maverick does everything with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. He knows what and who he exactly is. While out for himself he does have a bit of a code that he follows yet it seems that code leads to him not being as dishonest as he wants to be and becoming a victim occasionally of the dishonesty of those he would consider friends. 

Also in this film is the original Bret Maverick actor James Garner as Zane Cooper. We don’t have many celebrities like him anymore. He just shows up and has this natural charm to him. There’s a gleam in his eye and with a deep resonating voice he pulls you into whatever he’s doing. Here he plays a sheriff with a bit of a secret and heading to the same card game that Maverick is to act as security. 

Rounding out the main cast is Jodie Foster as young con artist Annabelle Bransford who is just as underhanded and full of tricks as Bret Maverick. She too is heading to the same card game which is how all these characters manage to stick together throughout the story. It’s a lighter film and Jodie Foster really makes Annabelle a genuine counterpart to Maverick. She’s no bad ass or no hard edged woman. And she is not there to be conquered by Maverick but to compete against him.

Maverick has quite the cast supporting cast to it. James Coburn plays the Commodore who is throwing the big card game. Alfred Molina plays Angel, a Mexican gambler who’s not only hired to take out Bret Maverick but is going to the same game. Graham Greene shows up in a supporting performance as Joseph who is an individual that owes money to Bret.

Greene’s part is rather entertaining and what he’s portrayed as is not that different from Bret. He too is running cons though his play into the bigotry and general ignorance of those he encounters. He is as charming as Bret and part of an important and entertaining interlude in the film during which Maverick makes a few comments to highlight the racism against the Native Americans. This is not a message movie at all though. Rather it takes a moment out to deliver a message but gets on with entertaining.

Maverick also manages a fair set of cameos of people from either Westerns or country music. Paul Brinegar, Denver Pyle, William Smith, Doug McClure, James Drury, Henry Darrow, Robert Fuller, Carlene Carter, Hal Ketchum, Vince Gill, Clint Black, Waylon Jennings, and Kathy Mattea and more all show up in varying capacities. You may not recognize everybody but it is a nice treat for genre fans as well as a good way to honor what laid the foundation for the movie to be made.

In Maverick there are plots and counterplots and backstabbing but it is all done with a sense of fun. It goes all the way up to the closing moments of the film. Some of it is pretty obvious even before any reveal with others fitting in nicely with the characters that they have portrayed.

There are jokes but nothing that’ll make your side split. You may get a chuckle here and there or put a smile on your face. One of the funnier ones is a very brief appearance by Danny Glover as a bank robber. Maverick has gone to visit a friend to collect the last little bit of money he needs to enter the tournament. Enter a group of bank robbers one of which is Danny Glover. Glover and Gibson trade knowing looks at one another during the whole scene. And that’s what really sells it. 

Richard Donner took a television property and made something special out of it. But then again this is Richard Donner. No one I think could’ve handled this type of film quite like him back in the day. There might be some today who can get close but not back then. Toss in a witty script and a fast moving, steady paced narrative that doesn’t step on any of its elements and this movie is a winner. This is the kind of Western I’d like to see more of that we just don’t get barely ever. 

Maverick is a great adaptation of a television property. It’s fun and exciting. But most importantly it is just re-watchable again and again. If you are a fan of Westerns or just want something entertaining to watch this is most certainly something to check out!

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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