Action and laughter is what director Richard Donner (Conspiracy Theory, Scrooged) is going for in this film version of the television series Maverick. You would think that he, who had directed the entire Lethal Weapon series, would be well qualified for this type of film. That plus he has plenty of acting talent on board. It is a decent film with some good laughs in it, but it is definitely not groundbreaking. Which is fine because it doesn’t try to be.
Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson – Braveheart, The Road Warrior) is a hustler, handy with a gun and a top-notch card player. He is on his way to St. Louis for a big poker tournament. There is a major snag, however, in that he is short by $3,000 of the $25,000 entry fee. So his plan is that on his way to St. Louis he would stop in on another town called Crystal River to collect some debts owed to him, play some poker and hope to win the money he needs there.
While in the process of doing that he meets fellow card shark Annabelle Bradford (Jodie Foster – Silence of the Lambs, Flight Plan), who has the same plan as Maverick. En route he also meets a lawman named Zane Cooper (James Garner – The Notebook, The Great Escape) heading in the same direction as he and Annabelle.
Once in the town Maverick begins to realize that very little is as it seems and he is more than willing to play right along. For instance, Annabelle is not the Southern belle she has put herself up to be. He does manage to pull the wool over the eyes of fellow card player Angel (Alfred Molina – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Chocolat), who is not very happy and tries to hang Maverick from a tree.
Everything works out as Maverick is able to escape and get to the high stakes poker game, which is happening on a paddle steamer. The early rounds go well and Maverick, Annabelle, Angel and the Commodore (James Coburn – The Nutty Professor, Monsters, Inc.) make it to the finals. It is not giving the ending away telling you that Maverick wins the finals as that is not the end of our story.
It was originally released in 1994 and it was nice to have that old fashioned style cowboy film back on the big screen. This is a film that you can watch several times (with some time in between each viewing, of course) without becoming completely bored with it. The story is quite a simple one until the end where there are twists galore. Hold on to your ten gallon hats for that!
Mel Gibson is good in the lead role. His Maverick (interesting fact is that James Garner played the role in the television series) is charming, goofy, sly, and funny. I was quite surprised with the quality of Jodie Foster’s performance. She had never really done comedy before this and while we know she is an exceptional dramatic actress her ability to do comedy was unknown. Foster gives a “natural” performance in a role that demanded things of her never before asked. Plus the chemistry between her and Mel Gibson is great.
-HBO First Look Special A Pictorial History of the Makin’ of the Movie Maverick
– Maverick Choir Amazing Grace Music Video
– Theatrical Trailer