ⓘ Maverick (film)


ⓘ Maverick (film)

Maverick is a 1994 American western comedy film directed by Richard Donner and written by William Goldman. Based on the 1950s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins, the film stars Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, a card player and con artist who collects money in order to enter a high-stakes poker game. He is joined in his adventure by Annabelle Bransford, another con artist, and Marshall Zane Cooper, a lawman. The supporting cast features Graham Greene, James Coburn, Alfred Molina and many cameo appearances by Western film actors, country music stars and other actors.

Released theatrically by Warner Bros. on May 20, 1994, the film was both a critical and commercial success, having grossed over $183 million worldwide. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.


1. Plot

In the American Old West, gambler Bret Maverick is on his way to a major five-card draw poker tournament being held on the paddle steamer Lauren Belle. Maverick wants to prove he is the best card player of his time. Short $3.000 of the $25.000 tournament entry fee, Maverick travels to the town of Crystal River, intending to collect on debts and win money at card games. At an impromptu poker game, he encounters the ill-tempered gambler Angel, the young con artist Annabelle Bransford, and lawman Marshal Zane Cooper. He wins a massive pot from Angel, but must flee without collecting his winnings.

Maverick, Bransford and Cooper journey out of Crystal River together, overcoming runaway stagecoaches and aiding migrant missionary settlers who have been waylaid by bandits. The settlers offer Maverick a percentage of the money they have desperately need to start their mission, while one spinster missionary suggests marriage to Cooper, but both men turn down their offers. The trio are later cornered by a band of Indians led by Joseph. His companions are unaware that Joseph and Maverick are good friends; Maverick "sacrifices" himself to allow his companions escape. Joseph owes $1.000 to Maverick; they swindle that amount from a Russian Archduke with a scheme that "allows" him to hunt and kill an Indian Maverick, in disguise.

Angel, still seething that Maverick bluffed him at their previous poker game, receives a telegram instructing him to stop Maverick. Angel and his mercenaries catch up to Maverick, but unable to find his money, leave him for dead. Maverick escapes, recovers the $23.000 hidden in his boot, and makes his way to the Lauren Belle. He reunites with Bransford and Cooper, and Bransford is still short $4.000 herself. Spotting the Archduke aboard, Maverick poses as a U.S. Marshal investigating the shooting of Indians for game, conning the Archduke of $6.000 to cover his and Bransfords entry.

Commodore Duvall welcomes the twenty competitors to the tournament, with Cooper overseeing the security of the game and the prize money, and watching for any cheaters, who are summarily thrown overboard when discovered. Eventually, only four players are left: Maverick, Bransford, Angel, and the Commodore. During the break before the final round, Maverick and Bransford have a tryst in his quarters. After Bransford leaves, Maverick finds he has been locked in to attempt to make him forfeit the game, but manages to climb outside the steamer to make the game on time. Bransford is eliminated early, and as the match comes down to Maverick and Angel, Maverick notices the dealer dealing from the bottom of the deck. He calls this out, and with Angel and the Commodore all-in with strong hands, Maverick is able to pull one card to complete his royal flush. Angel and his men try to shoot and kill Maverick, but Cooper and Maverick shoot first, killing them.

During the closing ceremony to give Maverick his winnings of $500.000, Cooper says he will keep the money for himself and escapes. Later that night, Cooper secretly meets with the Commodore, revealing that the two had struck a deal to steal the money for themselves and that Angel was working for the Commodore. The Commodore draws a gun and breaks his crooked deal with Cooper, when Maverick appears, having tracked them down, and takes back his prize money. Some time later, Maverick is relaxing in a hot bath when Cooper finds him, revealing that Maverick is Coopers son, and the two had planned this windfall long in advance. As both men enjoy the baths, Bransford arrives, having discovered the father-son relationship from earlier trysts, and walks away with the bag containing the prize money. After she leaves, Maverick reveals to Cooper that he allowed Bransford to take the money uncontested, since he took Coopers advice and kept half the prize money in his boots. Maverick admits it will be fun retrieving the rest of the funds.


2. Cast

  • Geoffrey Lewis as Matthew Wicker
  • Alfred Molina as Angel
  • James Coburn as Commodore
  • Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick
  • Paul L. Smith as Archduke
  • Jodie Foster as Annabelle Bransford
  • Dub Taylor as Room Clerk
  • Graham Greene as Joseph
  • Dan Hedaya as Twitchy
  • James Garner as Zane Cooper

There are multiple cameo appearances in the film from Western actors, people who have formerly worked with Donner, Gibson, Foster, or Garner, and other celebrities including Danny Glover uncredited, Hal Ketchum and Corey Feldman as bank robbers; Read Morgan and Steve Kahan as card dealers; Art LaFleur and Leo Gordon as poker players at Mavericks first game; Paul Brinegar as the stagecoach driver; Denver Pyle as a cheating old gambler; Robert Fuller, Doug McClure, Henry Darrow, William Smith and Charles Dierkop as riverboat poker players; William Marshall as a riverboat poker player defeated by Angel; Dennis Fimple as Stuttering, a player beaten by the Commodore; Bert Remsen as an elderly riverboat gambler beaten by Maverick; and Margot Kidder as missionary Margaret Mary, colleague of missionary Mary Margaret, in an uncredited appearance.

Leo Gordon had played a semi-regular supporting character in seasons one and two of the original Maverick TV show: gambler Big Mike McComb. Gordon also later wrote a few episodes of the show. Margot Kidder had been Garners co-star and onscreen love interest in the short-lived western TV series Nichols, reflected in their meeting in Maverick when her character quickly hints that his character might want to marry her. Danny Glovers cameo appearance references Donners Lethal Weapon film series starring Glover and Gibson as cop partners. Their meeting in Maverick sees them share a moment of recognition, complete with Lethal Weapon music, and as he leaves, Glover says Roger Murtaughs catchphrase: "Im getting too old for this shit."

Country singers also cameo including Carlene Carter as a waitress, Waylon Jennings and Kathy Mattea as a gambling couple with concealed guns, Reba McEntire, Clint Black as a sweet-faced gambler thrown overboard for cheating, and Vince Gill and his then-wife Janis Gill as spectators.


3.1. Production Development

In Five Screenplays with Essays, Goldman describes an earlier version of the script, in which Maverick explains he has a magic ability to call the card he needs out of the deck. Although he is not able to do so successfully, the old hermit he attempts to demonstrate it for tells him that he really does have the magic in him. This scene was shot with Linda Hunt playing the hermit but it was felt it did not work in the context of the rest of the movie and was cut.

Garner wrote in his memoirs that Mel Gibson originally wanted Paul Newman to play Zane Cooper but Newman was not interested.


3.2. Production Filming

Parts of the film were shot at Lake Powell and Warm Creek in Utah. Other filming locations include Lees Ferry and Marble Canyon in Arizona, Lone Pine, Manzanar, Big Pine, and Yosemite National Park in California, and Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.


3.3. Production Vehicles

The steamboat used in the film - dubbed the Lauren Belle - was the Portland, the last remaining sternwheel tugboat in the US; at the time it belonged to the Oregon Maritime Museum in Portland. Over several weeks, the boat was decorated to alter its appearance to resemble a Mississippi-style gambling boat, including the addition of two decorative chimneys. In August 1993, the production requested permission to film scenes of the riverboat along the Columbia River in Washington State. The artificial smoke released by the boats chimney was considered to violate air-quality laws in Washington and Oregon and required approval for the scenes before their scheduled filming date in September 1993. After filming concluded, the decorations were removed and the boat was returned to its original state.


3.4. Production Soundtrack

The soundtrack featured three chart singles: "Renegades, Rebels and Rogues" by Tracy Lawrence, "A Good Run of Bad Luck" by Clint Black which also appeared on his album No Time to Kill, and "Something Already Gone" by Carlene Carter. Also included on the album was an all-star rendition of "Amazing Grace", from which all royalties were donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.


4.1. Reception Critical response

The film has received generally favorable reviews. The film garnered a 66% approval rating from 53 critics – an average rating of 6/10 – on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, which said, "It isnt terribly deep, but its witty and undeniably charming, and the cast is obviously having fun."

James Berardinelli, from reelviews.net, gave the film three and a half stars out of four. He stated, "The strength of Maverick is the ease with which it switches from comedy to action, and back again.its refreshing to find something that satisfies expectations." Reviewing it for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, writing that the film is "the first lighthearted, laugh-oriented family Western in a long time, and one of the nice things about it is, it doesnt feel the need to justify its existence. It acts like its the most natural thing in the world to be a Western."


4.2. Reception Box office

The film earned $101.631.272 55.5% in North America and $81.400.000 44.5% elsewhere for a worldwide total of $183.031.272. This gross made it the number 12 highest-grossing film in North America and the number 15 highest-grossing film worldwide of 1994. As of 2013, the film is the number 6 highest grossing Western film in North America.

Pre-release tracking showed that the film would open strongly. During its opening weekend in North America, Maverick earned $17.2 million from 2.537 theaters – an average of $6.798 per theater – ranking as the number 1 film of the weekend, and took a total of $41.8 million over its first two weeks of release.

The movie was a box office success as it grossed over $183 million worldwide.