Maverick (1994): Richard Donner’s Anachronistic Western, Starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster

Inspired by the old popular TV series, “Maverick” aims to offer the same kind of pleasures that previous films written by William Goldman and others have provided, such as the 1973 Oscar winner “The Sting” and, of course, the cult Western, “Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid,” both of which were elevated by the charisma and chemistry of Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

As directed by Richard Donner, Maverick tries hard but is not nearly as witty or confident or slick entertainment. Despite the star power, Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, it’s a second-rate picture in every respect–and anachronistic Western.

Mel Gibson, at his most handsome, plays a gunslinging con man, who develops tricky schemes to make a killing major poker tournaments. As Bret Maverick, the charming rogue hopes to cheat his way to success.

Needing a large stake to enter a major card competition on a Louisiana steamboat, Maverick decides to take advantage of some small-town poker players. They include the seemingly sweet Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster) and the intimidating Angel (Alfred Molina), neither of whom is too happy about losing. Things gets more complicated, when the law gets involved, with Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner, who had played with great success the role of Maverick in the original TV series) giving chase. The fakely constructed tale unfold as a series of stagecoach chases, complicated cons, and gun battles, while Annabelle and Maverick flirt along the way.

The target audience for this manipulative narrative is a new generation of filmgoers, un familiar with the original series. But, as noted, “Maverick” tries too hard to be exuberant, resulting in a crowd pleaser that barely resembles the charm and wit of the original TV series. End result is feel-good but emotionally hollow ad facetious movie that’s too pleased with itself, and only slightly elevated by the stars’ presence and by the glossy production values.

Oscar Nominations:

Costume design: April Ferry

Oscar Awards: None

The winners of the Costume Oscar were Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

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