Maverick [1994]

Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner, Graham Greene, Alfred Molina
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 127 minutes

Inspired by the 1960s TV series that starred James Garner in the title role, this lightweight Western from 1994 proved to be a surprising box-office hit. Well, maybe not such a big surprise, since it's from the star and director of the Lethal Weapon movies, and operates with a similar combination of mainstream plotting and easygoing humor. Mel Gibson stars as card-playing gunslinger Brett Maverick, who meets up with wily gambler Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster) and a marshal named Zane Cooper (James Garner, trading his old role to Gibson) on his way to the World Series of poker in St. Louis. Maverick's trying to raise the $5,000 needed to join the high-stakes contest, but that's easier said than done due to a lot of unscrupulous competition and a twisting plot of tricks and deceptions. It's all played for laughs and action, so the movie never wears out its welcome, despite a running time that could've used a good trimming. It's also fun to see the rapport between Gibson and Garner, as if the present and former Mavericks were a kind of surrogate son and father, bonded by their mutual skill in charming and conning their way through tight spots. Director Richard Donner also pays tribute to old Westerns by casting veterans of the genre in cameo roles (including Bert Remsen, Dub Taylor, and Denver Pyle), and Gibson's Lethal Weapon costar Danny Glover pops in for a surprise appearance. None of this really adds up to much since the movie makes no pretense about taking itself seriously, but that's precisely why audiences found it so entertaining. --Jeff Shannon

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