Maverick (1994) – Richard Donner

Apparently, I’m still watching more Richard Donner movies, and this one I haven’t seen in years! Based on the television show from the 60s, Maverick comes to the big screen with Mel Gibson in the titular role, while the series original star, James Garner, co-stars as Marshall Zane Cooper. Jodie Foster rounds out the above the title stars, but that doesn’t stop the slew of familiar faces, cameos and supporting actors who bring this western/action/comedy to life.

Penned by acclaimed screenwriter William Goldman, the story sees Maverick trying to get to a big poker game (with some stunning location work and scenery along the way), where the winnings would amount to half a million dollars. He’s a couple thousand short of the twenty five thousand entry fee, and is looking up his old friends to collect on some IOUs.

Along the way he bumps into Cooper, and elegant (if occasionally clumsy) thief, Annabelle Bransford (Foster) – neither of whom can necessarily be trusted. But there’s more trouble in line for Brett Maverick as it seems he is being pursued by The Spaniard (Alfred Molina) who is intent on keeping Maverick from the big game.

Maverick bumps into familiar faces (watch for appearances by Lethal Weapon co-stars Danny Glover and Steve Kahan) as well as country music stars, and famed character actors such as the wonderful Graham Greene, Denver Pyle, Geoffrey Lewis, Dan Hedaya, Margot Kidder, and James Coburn. It’s a lot of fun.

The story is sharp and funny, with Gibson providing a running internal monologue that works perfectly for the tone of the film.

The film not only pays homage to the series, westerns and comedies, but to some classic stunts as well and it all combines to crowd pleasing effect. Putting Gibson, Foster and Garner together is a joy, watching them play off of one another, and once again, there’s an effortlessness to the banter, and the interactions, that make the moments seem natural and unrehearsed.

Like I had mentioned, I hadn’t watched this one in years, probably not since the turn of the century. I remember greatly enjoying it when it first came out, but never really revisiting it. And that’s too bad, because it’s really very enjoyable, subverting expectations of characters, and situations, and just having fun with established western tropes.

Sure, the further the film progresses the more country music is shoehorned into it, they had a soundtrack to release after all, and most of those who had songs on the album make appearances at various points in the film. None of it detracts from the experience however, and it still plays like an enjoyable escapade that shows that comedy, western, and action can be combined into one enjoyable confection. Even if I had forgotten about it for years.

So deal me in for this one… (again).

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