Garner and Gibson whose Maverick is Top Gun
If you look at James Garner's career there are two very important characters he played, one was Jim Rockford in "The Rockford Files" the other was Bret Maverick in "Maverick", both popular TV shows. Now I've watched "The Rockford Files", it was regular viewing whilst growing up but I have never seen a single episode of "Maverick" the TV series. Does that make any difference when watching Richard Donner's movie "Maverick", I don't think so as "Maverick" the movie works wells as an entity on its own, creating characters, having a self contained storyline and plenty of humour to make it a fun, entertaining couple of hours of western movie mayhem.
With only a few days left for Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson - Forever Young) to raise the remaining $3000 so that he can enter Commodore Duvall's (James Coburn) winner takes all poker game, he finds himself in the accompaniment of southern belle Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster - The Silence of the Lambs) another gambler and Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner - Move Over, Darling) all heading for the same place. As Maverick tries to con and trick the remaining money, Miss Bransford tries to con him, the whole time Cooper amusingly watches on.
"Maverick" is a movie clearly split into two parts; I wouldn't say halves as the first part is much longer than the second. So we get a first part which focuses on the trio of characters Bret Maverick, Annabelle Bransford and Marshal Zane Cooper as we learn all about them through a series of comical escapades such as Annabelle shrinking Maverick's shirt and the trio taking on a group of stage robbing bad guys. The second part then focuses on the gambling aboard Commodore Duvall's steamer as it sort of captures the card games whilst also delivering a few twists to stop it from being completely void of anything worth thinking about.
It has to be said that for the most the storyline, the two separate parts, work thanks to their simplistic nature. There is nothing which makes you think really hard or concentrate, even the twists which spice it up a bit are frankly pretty obvious and expected. Although saying that it does at times feel drawn out, especially in the first part where it seems that between director Richard Donner and the writers they couldn't resist throwing in just one more funny scene or witty barb between Maverick and one of his companions.
But to be frank whilst "Maverick" does have a storyline it really is about one thing, that being the comedy. From beginning to end it is full of set pieces, beautifully choreographed scenes such as those around the card table which have a comical pay off. And with this being a western, there are plenty of semi comical nods to great western traditions such as gun fights, brawls and a scene which sees Maverick hanging from a tree with his horse underneath him, trust me it's funnier than it sounds. But one of the best moments, a perfect in-joke thanks to the collaboration of Richard Donner and Mel Gibson is a scene which features Gibson's "Lethal Weapon" partner, Danny Glover, as a bank robber. It's inspired, brilliantly worked and no matter how simple it's damn funny.
Aside from the various set pieces a lot of the comedy revolves around the interactions of Bret Maverick, Annabelle Bransford and Marshal Zane Cooper with witty dialogue flowing so naturally with each of the actors sparking off each other brilliantly. As you would imagine with Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick we get plenty of his fast talking charm and no one does it better. Tie this in with Jodie Foster as duplicitous southern belle Annabelle Bransford and you have a brilliant comical pairing, with sparks flying between them in ever scene including numerous comical romantic clinches. And to top this off you have James Garner playing Marshal Zane Cooper a clever piece of casting not just because he once played Maverick but it allows for an obvious but amusing twist.
Aside from the trio of Mel Gibson, James Garner and Jodie Foster there are some amusing supporting performances as well. The always reliable Alfred Molina is perfect as cheating gambler Angel and James Coburn is always a pleasure as he is here playing Commodore Duvall. But the best of the supporting performances comes from Graham Greene who is just a barrel of laughs as Joseph the supposedly terrifying Indian warrior who is in fact a friend of Maverick's. The scenes which feature Greene are pure dynamite especially the comical subtitle scene.
What this all boils down to is that "Maverick" is good fun entertainment which works even if you haven't watched an episode of the TV version of "Maverick". It may feature a simple storyline which at times feels rather drawn out but it runs thick and fast with comedy be it from set pieces or through the witty dialogue which Mel Gibson, James Garner and Jodie Foster expertly deliver.