Maverick (1994)

The original Maverick was a TV series that ran from 1957 to 1962 and featured James Garner in the lead role as a drifter gambler in the old west going from poker game to poker game.  This remake see’s Mel Gibson reprising the lead role, Bret Maverick, who is raising the final part of his $25k (or $600k roughly in today’s funds) entry fee for a very exclusive poker game.

A long the way, he bumps into southern belle socialite con-artist Ms Bransford, played by the delightful

Jodie Foster.  She gives Bret a run for his (literal) money as they are two peas from the same pod.   To complete the trio, Marshall Zane Cooper (played by

James Garner) joins in the journey.

Of course when you have James Garner in the remake in a leading role, you have to wonder if there is more to his character.  Of course there is, and not to throw away a huge plot spoiler, turns out to be Bret’s father.  This is fairly obvious, especially if you keep an eye out for some in-your-face cues (for example every time Bret says my pappy would always say the camera cuts to Cooper).

Maverick captures the vastness of the old west with wonderful sweeping panoramic views of the dusty west with intricate old style town and steam boat details.   Scenes not seen since the old John Wayne era of westerns.

There are some wonderful set-pieces that rival the stunts from the likes of John Ford in Stagecoach.   For example, the scene with the three of them in a galloping runaway coach, with a driver that has died, is not only impressive, but extremely funny in both physical comedy and dialogue.

Speaking of speaking, the dialogue in this movie is spot-on, with a flow and a natural delivery of lines that doesn’t feel like you are being fed a list of smart one-liners.   This movie has far more to give than the trailer undersells.

Annabelle: What is it with you and Indians anyway?
Maverick: Oh, nothing. I try and shoot one a day, if possible, before noon. How ‘bout you, Coop? I figure it’s their fault for being on our land before we got here.

This movie comes post-Lethal Weapon for Gibson, and with that, keep your eyes open for some nods to that series with some very well placed cameos.  There are a number, so if you think you have seen the one, there are more.

This is a big cast, with

Graham Greene reprising a very street smart post-DancesWithWolves Indian, Alfred Molina as Bret’s main nemesis and finally

James Coburn as the host of the final poker game.

A special note to the soundtrack of this movie.   It can be hard to track down the actual score of the movie, as oppose to the mainstream version of all the vocal tracks.  The score is infinitely better and breaths life into each scene.

This outing is not without its flaws but those shouldn’t be held against it for it is trying to do.  We forget that before we had Robert Downey Jr. playing the smart-arse good-looking cocky lead, we had Mel Gibson pioneering this role.   Lethal Weapon, Air America, Bird on a wire and Maverick all proved he had this genre mastered.   Though it was a crown he was to give up later in his career.

Being a huge John Wayne fan that grew up on western re-runs, this movie marked a nice nod to that era without over doing it.  Thoroughly enjoyable romp.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 12th September 2015


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Author: Alan Williamson

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