Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Maverick (1994) – Better Than Most Television Shows that Become Films

Written by Roy Huggins and William Goldman
Directed by Richard Donner

It seems at times that Hollywood can’t come up with original films lately.  Many seem to be remakes of other films without giving credit where it’s due (Avatar = Dances With Wolves).  Then there are the films based on old television shows.  Most of the time these aren’t worth the film they are printed on, never mind the time spent watching them.  There are a few exceptions to this, and one of those is Maverick.

This film stars Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, a role that originated on television by James Garner.  Garner also stars in this as Marshal Zane Cooper.  Add to the mix Jodie Foster as con-woman Annabelle Bransford, and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of fun in this Richard Donner film based on the classic television show.

Bret Maverick has a bit of a problem.  He’s looking to get in on a poker game in St. Louis with big stakes – a half-million-dollar pot.  He just has two problems.  One is that he has to get there and two is he needs money to buy in with.  In a small western town, he meets Annabelle Bransford.  She’s playing poker with some of the men of the town when Bret ambles on up.

From there the game is on.  There’s a cat-and-mouse going on between Bret and Annabelle as they both show their con-artist nature and set out to out-con each other.  A trip on the stage has them meet up with a lawman by the name of Marshall Zane Cooper, who’s something of a legend.

The misadventures occur throughout the trip, and not just what goes on between the three lead players.  Angel (portrayed by Alfred Molina) was first encountered with Annabelle at the poker table but he’s got a vested interest in keeping Maverick from getting to the poker game.  The lead trio also becomes involved with some missionaries who have had their money stolen as well as a tribe of Native Americans being paid to entertain a Russian Archduke.

The acting here is terrific.  The three leads play off each other very well.  All of the side plots make the film a lot of fun, even if they don’t make sense at times.  This has very much the feel of the later Lethal Weapon films when they seemed to get sillier and go more for the laughs rather than the more dramatic moments of the first film.  This makes sense when you team up Gibson and Donner and it works very well as a comedy.  I don’t get tired of watching it.

This is one of the few roles I’ve seen Foster in that she pulls off comedy in a believable way. She’s someone who leans towards more dramatic and suspenseful roles, but this foray into comedy works for her.  In addition, there are plenty of guest stars in Maverick who portray smaller roles.  You have to keep your eyes open all the time.

The story works well and reveals itself slowly enough to keep the viewer on their toes.  It’s pretty certain there’s a con going on, but who is conning who and what’s going to happen isn’t always apparent.  Even after watching the film a few times, the comedy stays fresh.  The movie is still fun, even if you know the ending.

The DVD is nothing special.  The print is fine and the quality is good, but there are no special features to be had, which is a shame.  Still, the movie is good enough to stand up on its own.  It’s a lot of fun to watch and enjoy if you need a good laugh.