Maverick (Movie)

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner, Alfred Molina, Graham Greene, James Coburn

Director: Richard Donner
Released: 1994

Mood: If you want to be thoroughly entertained by a Western that’s packed with stars and has a brilliant story that constantly laughs at itself and you’re okay with simultaneously hating yourself for liking Mel Gibson.

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, too, for being on our land before we got here.

I’m going to be bold and make a HUGE public commitment here: Maverick is one of my top 10 Westerns of all time. 

Why? Every scene is a f*cking delight. Every. Single. Scene.

I fell in love with Maverick the first time I ever saw it, probably not too long after it came out. I was too young to get all the layers of references or catch all the cameos (Danny Glover, Reba McEntire, Waylon Jennings, and John Fogerty, to name a few), but I knew it was 100% my kind of movie. 

I had a moment when Mel Gibson had his hate-spewing meltdown, and later pleaded no contest to domestic assault. Was it still okay to love Maverick? I bought the DVD way before any of that happened, and throwing it out wasn’t going to change anything. I also get a ton of joy from every performance in the movie, not just Gibson’s.

So yeah, I’m still on team Maverick

I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with my choice. That’s your opinion. Mine is that it’s a GREAT F*CKING MOVIE that everyone should watch. And I’m the one with the website.

photo of the Maverick DVD

The movie centres around Bret Maverick (Gibson), the character famously portrayed time and again by James Garner:

  • On the awesome 1957-1962 TV series Maverick
  • In the 1978 TV movie The New Maverick
  • In the short-lived 1979 TV series Young Maverick
  • In the 1981-82 TV series Bret Maverick
  • Also uncredited in 1957’s TV series Sugarfoot, and in deleted scenes from 1959’s Alias Jesse James

Bret is, as always, a charming gambler, this time hoping to get into a high-stakes poker game. But he’s $3,000 short, so he’s trying to scrape together the remainder in local games and by collecting on debts owed to him. Much hilarity ensues.

As much as Gibson’s Maverick is funny, affable, and never short on one-liners, the supporting cast is where Maverick shines. I couldn’t pick a favourite character if I tried. The acting and the script are just so on point that I want to quit writing this review so I can watch it again. 

Annabelle Bransford is equal parts charming and calculating, and Jodie Foster does both with a natural ease. I would give almost anything to get my hands on a single outfit from Annabelle’s wardrobe. That blue dress she’s wearing when she first meets Bret, sweet baby Cheesus. I’ve been trying to find one like it for most of my adult life. 

I’ll spare you my many, many, MANY feelings on James Garner – they’re already dripping all over my Support Your Local Sheriff review. I’m a fan, a super fan, a diehard fan. I think the world of James Garner, and this role doesn’t disappoint. He’s fantastic as the stoic, sober Marshal Zane Cooper. 

Another actor who has my fan-feels is Alfred Molina, who plays the baked-beans-smelling villain Angel. Molina is one of those gifted actors who can do almost anything – romance (Frida), slapstick comedy (Dudley Do-Right), ragey villainy (Spiderman). He’s the total package. Although Angel doesn’t deliver any of the quips that make Maverick so fun, he’s the perfect swarthy opponent for Gibson’s lovable scamp. 

illustration of a fancy moustache

If I was forced to pick a favourite, like if it was a matter of saving a kitten or a churro… it would probably be Joseph (Graham Greene). His commentary on white people and colonization is outstanding:

  • “The next time you people come and drive us off our land I’m gonna find a nice piece of swamp that’s so God-awful, maybe then you’ll leave us the hell alone.”
  • “Kill Indians? Is it legal?” “Oh, white man been doing it for years.”
  • “How’m I going to explain I got away with my hands still attached?” “Tell them you got us all drunk on firewater, surrounded us, and escaped in the confusion.” “Nobody’ll believe that. It’s stupid.” “You people will believe anything.”

I was SO STOKED when Greene joined über-Canadian comedy The Red Green Show right after Maverick.

As if this movie wasn’t already awesome enough, you get the added bonus of James Coburn as Commodore Duvall. Like Garner, Coburn could bring the Western to any movie. He was that pure, oldschool movie stock that seemed born for these roles. 

It’s when Coburn enters the movie that things get really good. Plot twists and tension and sexy times and double-crosses that turn into triple-crosses – just like every episode of Maverick (the TV series). And like the show, the film’s ending isn’t an ending at all. 

illustration of a fancy moustache

Maverick is everything great about a comedy Western, which is impressive since it doesn’t have a single epic moustache. 

I can’t help but wonder, should the character of Bret Maverick be officially retired like a jersey number, with Garner’s passing (and Gibson’s inability to ever again convincingly play a charming sweetheart)? Is there a Bret Maverick of this generation? 

Maybe someone like Thomas Haden Church, who can do ridiculous comedy but also stoic Western manliness. Or let’s shake things up and get a strong Maverick of Colour, like Jamie Foxx.  

OMG JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT! He’d be the perfect Maverick.

Just please, not a f*cking Hemsworth.

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