'Maverick' Review: Mel Gibson Goes West
Maverick represents a tonally different type of western from your typical foray into the genre. An action comedy, rather than a somber march, Richard Donner and Mel Gibson's fourth film together, tells the tale of an expert poker player/con man, Maverick, as he tries to gain his entry fee to a legendary poker tournament that guarantees to the winner $500,000. He meets Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), a fellow con artist who constantly flirts and swindles him, and Marshall Zane Cooper (James Garner), a righteous lawman. Alfred Molina plays a Spaniard hired to prevent Maverick from reaching the tournament at all costs.
The plot is fairly straightforward, which allows the film to focus on the strength of its cast. While never over the top, the film succeeds in managing laughs while keeping the stakes high. The costumes and set design appear authentic, and the characters react in human ways. Every time something incredulous happened (climax of the film aside), a logical reason was given for it, rather than it being written off as plot convenience. Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster have great chemistry, with their tête-à-tête throughout the film being a consistent highlight. Mel Gibson's Maverick is charming, funny, uncannily good at reading people, and a hell of a gunfighter. The gun fighting sequences, while hardly a predominant focus of the film, are all shot well, with the action easy to see. Plus, they aren't just standard one on one duels that we mostly associate with westerns. One of my absolute favorite moments in the film was a cameo (of which there are several) by Danny Glover, as he and Maverick share a glance together hearkening towards their time together in the Lethal Weapon films. Flourishes like these are narratively unnecessary, but added that much more excitement and intrigue during the viewing of the movie.
Alfred Molina's antagonist suffers from a two dimensional personality, but Molina plays him with enough vitriol and menace to sell you on his danger. The film spends so much time developing its leads that the villains are primarily there just to throw a wrench in their plans. It's not a major hindrance to the film, but it was noticeable how little I ended up caring about that character, considering he plays a major part.
Maverick isn't a profound film, but it doesn't need to be. With a plethora of great leads, an engaging story, and some absolutely funny and endearing moments, it is one of the most enjoyable westerns in recent memory. Mel Gibson is in prime form, and seeing the late James Garner playing off of Maverick is a cinematic treat. If you want a western that doesn't skimp on heart and dialogue, Maverick is for you.
Final Say: Watch It