Richard Donner was inspired by the 1950’s eponymous television series and produced Maverick in 1994. Bret Maverick needs cash to enter a big game of poker and travels throughout Mississippi to find it. The very good acting, beautiful settings and nice soundtrack make a nice heart-lighted comedy out of Maverick.
Bret Maverick – the very charming and witty Mel Gibson – is a gambler. In the Wild West, between Crystal River and Saint Louis, Maverick is $3,000 short to enter a renowned poker-game. Along his way, he will meet several poker rivals, Miss Annabelle Bransford, a con lady – Jodie Foster where we least expect her, unusual in this light character -, Marshall Zane Cooper embodied by James Garner, and some Indians led by Native actor Graham Green, another add to the great cast. The trio Gibson, Foster, Garner is a good match, fun and harmonious.
The first scene of the movie sets the mood: there will be action and laughs. Even facing death, Maverick stays ironic and optimistic. His very expressive face (and funny faces!) make the audience laugh and get into the movie quickly. Donner finds the right balance between action and comedy, the harmony between the cast is perfectly settled: next to Foster and Gibson, James Garner brings a paternalist, sweet and funny figure.
There may be more humor than action, though. There are three or four fight scenes, never really violent. The fights are rather verbal; happening around the poker table with the help of some good old whisky while the bluff is at stake. The poker game is a most interesting scene of the movie, with its very nice tricks and ambiance, the appearance of James Coburn and the romance at its highest between Annabelle and Maverick.
Bluff is basically the main topic of the movie. Bret Maverick lives to bluff (or bluffs to live?). A sparkle in his eyes always brings doubt to his words. The movie is a succession of twists and turns, with some robbery (with a nice wink to Lethal Weapon starring Danny Glover as the robber), the classic trip on a stagecoach, the classic scene of the stagecoach incident and the appearance of Indians, who are also part of the bluff to help the hero. Towards the end, a final surprise brings an original twist to the scenario, confirming that Maverick is all about bluffing!
The setting is amazingly beautiful, and all Western elements are there: canyons, deserts, the Mississippi river, the saloon. Everything is at its right place, and it works. Donner’s big productionwas deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
Maverick gathered all the elements to create a good Western with mass appeal; in fact it earned over $180 million. Donner produced a movie that can please a broad public, with a funny scenario, madcap scenes, an endearing hero, and a romance making it all enjoyable. The soundtrack is also wisely chosen with three hits in the charts in the 90’s.
Maverick is a happy entertainment, refined by the actors, the setting and the usual American blockbuster production. Richard Donner produced a good comedy Western, which makes the audience laugh and dream about the beautiful Far West during the entire running time.
MAVERICK, movie directed by Richard Donner and written by William Goldman in 1994. Running time: 126 minutes.
Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick
Jodie Foster as Annabelle Bransford
James Garner as Marshal Zane Cooper
Graham Greene as Joseph
Alfred Molina as Angel
James Corbun as Commodore Duvall
Geoffrey Lewis as Matthew Wicker
Paul L. Smith as The Archduke
Max Perlich as Johnny Hardin
Warner Bros. Pictures