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Film: Maverick

Maverick (1994) is a Western comedy film based on the 1950s television series of the same name, created by Roy Huggins. The film was directed by Richard Donner from a screenplay by William Goldman and features Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner.

Bret Maverick is a wisecracking gambler who wants to win a poker championship - only partly for the money, but mainly to prove once and for all that he's the best at poker. However, complications keep arising. First, he starts off $3,000 short of the $25,000 entry fee for the contest. His efforts to make up the difference spark off much of the plot, as well as diversions caused by, and in the company of, three people he encounters at Crystal River: an antagonist named Angel (Alfred Molina), a young con-artist calling herself Mrs Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), and legendary lawman Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner, who played Bret Maverick in the original TV series). The first two are also rival poker players.

The three share a stagecoach (whose driver dies at full gallop), agree to help a wagon train of migrant evangelist settlers who have been waylaid by ruffians (for a fee which Maverick in the end is too big-hearted to accept), and are headed-off by a troop of Indians (who, unbeknownst to his companions, are good friends with Maverick), who agree to help Maverick collect the rest of the fee (by swindling a Russian Grand Duke). After this, though, Maverick's adventures get a little crazy, especially since somebody has good reason to make sure Maverick never makes it to the poker game...

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Bert ? Bret, his name's Bret.
  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Annabelle Bransford does this to Maverick twice in the same scene. The first time he notices and makes her give his wallet back, the second time he's so overwhelmed he doesn't notice and has to track her down later.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: Last song on the soundtrack. The three main characters sing it when their coach driver dies, for lack of anything to say about him (as they barely knew him). Two of them getting the lyrics wrong the same way is a plot point.
  • Anticlimax: The film starts with Maverick on the back of a horse with a noose around his neck and some snakes left behind by his captors to spook the horse so he'll be hanged. The first half of the film is about the circumstances that led him to this point. And when the moment arrives and Maverick's horse is about to bolt... the branch the rope is tied around, breaks.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: After Annabelle steals his wallet, Maverick gets it back and starts undressing, saying she is going to do something for him. She protests that she wouldn't sleep with him in a million years, to which he replies that he wouldn't ever want to with her anyway. She immediately demands to know why not.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Skewered during the encounter with the tribe of Indians. Maverick speaks their language just fine (and the Indians know English) and "translates" for the rest of the group, saying that they have trespassed on sacred ground, and the Indians' gods demand a sacrifice. Meanwhile, the subtitles relate the actual conversation: the chief just wants to know if Maverick has come for the money he owes him.
  • Bank Robbery: Maverick is a bystander.
  • Batman Gambit / Indy Ploy: Bret is a master of both.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: The title character does this to some robbers. Doubles as a Mythology Gag, as James Garner would frequently do this in the series.
  • Card Sharp: A few of the players at the game...but when they get caught, they're thrown overboard (one of which was Clint Black, who sang the song that plays over the poker playing montage.)
  • Call Back: In the beginning Annabelle ruins Maverick's shirt by shrinking it in the wash after mending it. At the end, she brings him a new shirt, as she robs him of half of his winnings.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: The two cheaters at the big game in the film's climax are caught, and summarily and unceremoniously thrown off the boat into the river. The second one tries to keep his dignity and jump.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Amazing Freaking Grace sung by Bret, Annabelle, and Cooper. Both Cooper and Bret sing the same wrong words to the song, which clues Annabell into the fact they are more than they seem.
    • Bret has a distinctive quick draw for his gun. Cooper has a near identical method. Again, Annabelle takes notice of this fact.
  • Chekhov's Gag: "Now, my pa always used to say..."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Maverick's attempts to pull a specific card out of deck. Introduced in the beginning as something he practices regularly, but it never works.
    • The real Chekhov's Skill is revealed in the first poker-game, namely that Maverick observes EVERYTHING that goes on at the table, and nothing gets by him. (See below). "Now what do you think I was doing for that hour? I was learning your tells..."
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: EVERYONE. Save Maverick and his father. It's odd when the con man is the one who is constantly having to deal with cheats who are his friends.
  • Con Men Hate Guns/Doesn't Like Guns: While Maverick is a Quickdraw with Improbable Aiming Skills, he doesn't use his gun to solve problems. He could have easily drawn and shot The Dragon and everyone else at the table in the initial poker game and saved himself a heck of a lot of hassle for the entire movie, but that's not the way Bret rolls. But when backed into a corner, Bret shows that he can easily handle six armed men, disarming them all with his gun. In the end, the only people he kills are a few mooks who are about to kill him anyway. He doesn't even kill the Big Bad or The Dragon.
  • Deadfoot Leadfoot: Maverick, Annabelle, and Coop are riding a stagecoach, when the driver dies, and the horses, left without input keep running at full speed, straight toward a cliff. The others make Maverick climb up on top to stop the horses, which, since the reins are dragging on the ground, he has to do by jumping onto the team's lead pair and pull back on them.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Angel tracks Maverick down, catches him and tries to hang him... all because Maverick beat him at a poker game and fooled him into thinking he couldn't take him in a fight at the beginning of the film.
  • The Dragon: Angel is this to the Commodore.
  • Engineered Heroics: Maverick beats several baddies in a fist fight to scare Angel. It turns out he promised them money for throwing the fight.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Marshal Zane Cooper.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Maverick shows off his quick-draw skills in a poker game. The man he faces off against is named "Johnny Hardin", AKA the Real Life outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Afterward, Hardin acknowledges that Maverick is fast.
  • The Film of the Series
  • For the Evulz: It's revealed that Brett just enjoys the con game. When Annabelle robs them of a quarter of a million dollars, Brett doesn't mind. He states the fun is in getting the money back. Which makes sense, since Maverick seems to have little need for money.
  • Friends All Along:
    • Maverick and the Indian tribe.
    • Also, Maverick and the bank manager he pulls a gun on.
    • Maverick and Cooper.
  • Ha Ha Ha No: Maverick does this to intimidate Angel after winning a fight against five other men - previously Angel had called him a gutless cheat and after the fight, tried to tell Maverick he was only teasing.
    Maverick: Teasing? Ah, hahahaha-I don't like being teased.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The gunfighter at the first poker game in the movie is strongly implied to be John Wesley Hardin.
  • Honor Before Reason: When Maverick realized they were playing with a fixed deck, he wanted a new shuffle, new deck, and new dealer. This is despite him understanding The Magic Poker Equation and the fix could work in his favor.
  • Gambit Pileup: Angel and the Commodore vs. the Commodore and Cooper vs. Cooper and Maverick.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Chief Joseph to Maverick after Maverick was hunted by the Russian Duke with real bullets and not the bow and arrows agreed upon.
  • Gratuitous French: When Joseph goes to meet the Russian duke, he starts speaking in French, which was the second language of the Russian court.
    Joseph: Ah bonjour bonjour monseigneur, comment allez-vous?
    The Russian Duke: C'est la langue des missionnaires. Parle anglais.
  • Gun Twirling: Maverick uses his flashy gunplay largely as part of a double-bluff. The twirling makes him look capable, which he subverts by pretending that he can't actually shoot when he's pretty good when it comes down to it. It doubles as foreshadowing as well; at the tournament, we see that Maverick and Cooper's gun twirling is exactly the same.
  • Holy Ground: Invoked by Maverick when Joseph's tribe shows up. Maverick communicates to them in their own language but makes it sound like they're angry because his party trespassed on sacred ground. He makes up the Indian Bravery Test as an excuse to go with them, which you pass by not making a sound as both your hands are chopped off.
  • How We Got Here/In Medias Res: The movie opens with Maverick about to be hanged, at about halfway through the overall story, as the show always did.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The Russian Grand Duke is swindled by offering him a "genuine Indian hunt", with Maverick playing the role of a sick old man that nobody will miss. When he "kills" Maverick, they blackmail him with the threat of exposure.
  • I Am One of Those Too: Bret Maverick wants to expose/embarrass the con woman "Mrs. Bransford".
    Maverick: I can't quite place your accent. Where in the South are you from?
    Mrs. Bransford: Ever been to Mobile? (pause) That's where I'm from.
    Maverick: Mobile, Alabama? Hell, I've been there. I'll bet we know the same people. You start.
    Mrs. Bransford: [beat] I've tried so hard to forget that place.
  • I Let You Win:
    • In the first poker game at the beginning, Maverick promises to lose for the first hour after Angel tells him he doesn't want him in the game. Maverick is true to his word, and learns all the tells of the other players and beats them all once the hour is up.
    • When Annabelle steals half of Bret's winnings at the end of the film, he wonders why he left it in the satchel in the first place. His dad says he knows exactly why and Bret agrees - because getting it back will be fun and it's an excuse to see Annabelle again.
  • Injun Country: Lampooned. Joseph, Maverick's Indian friend, and his tribe play the role to the hilt... and when Maverick asks what all the drums and other such nonsense are about, Joseph explains that they're bilking a wealthy Russian duke who came to America wanting a stereotypical "Wild West" experience. Also lampshaded when Jacob says if they get forced to move again he's going to find some godforsaken swampland that nobody wants in the hopes people will leave them the hell alone.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: The Danny Glover gag in the bank robbery scene.
    • This scene is actually a two-fer. Glover we get to see, but Corey Feldman was also part of the gang.
  • Kiss of Distraction: This is a favorite technique of Annabelle, which she usually uses to steal things. Maverick is very Genre Savvy about it. An Aren't You Going to Ravish Me? moment leds him to say, "Are you crazy? I'm not going to sleep with you! I'd wake up with all kinds of things missing!"
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Maverick, literally and figuratively.
  • Legacy Character: Played with. Cooper is actually Maverick's father, played by James Garner, who played the original Maverick on TV. So if the movie is a continuation of the show, it means the name "Maverick" is synonymous with conning and card-sharking.
  • Like My Pappy Always Said...: Maverick enjoys saying things his Pappy told him when young. Turns out he has changed most of them because they're so boring the way his Pappy said them. His Pappy is not amused by this.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Played with. Subversion: Maverick is one card short of a royal flush, from which he deduces that the deck is stacked. He wins the game by getting someone other than the crooked dealer to deal him that one card.
    • This requires some clarification, specifically how Maverick knew where the Ace of Spades was located. (See Chekhov's Skill above) Nothing happens at the table that Maverick does not notice, as Maverick is shown intensely watching the shuffle while it is happening. When the final game begins, the dealer takes out a new deck and throws away the top and bottom cards (the manufacturer cards) and begins to shuffle. The particular way the dealer shuffles the deck, the top card never leaves the top. Once he is done shuffling, the dealer offers the deck to Angel to cut. Angel smacks the deck (declining to cut). The dealer then switches decks, and begins dealing from the bottom of the new deck. Maverick then deduces from the results that the new deck is stacked. This is why he requests a new deck and shuffle. This is also why he asks for a new dealer and tells Angel "One from the top will be sufficient." A new deck of cards begins in order with Ace being 1, and many decks beginning with the suit of Spades. Given how much effort had been put into keeping him from the game, he knew the deck was not stacked for him to actually win, and the stacked deck likely still had its 1st card (the Ace of Spaces) at the beginning.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Maverick refuses to confirm whether he cheated drawing the Ace of Spades to complete the Royal Flush by saying it was "magic". His father smiles, and it's evident it doesn't really matter in the long run.
  • Mundane Solution: Annabelle spends the whole movie trying to con, cheat and pickpocket her way into big poker game and counts on her skill as a player to see her through. She gets nowhere with these tricks and in the end she simply steals half of Maverick's winnings by pulling a gun on him. It's implied that he lets her get away with it so he can have fun trying to get it all back.
  • My Favorite Shirt:
    • Maverick gets angry (or possibly pretends to) when his shirt is damaged during a fight.
    • He is legitimately angry when Annabelle ruins that shirt later.
  • No, Except Yes:
    Coop: See, my feeling is that if there weren't any women none of us would be here.
    Maverick: What kind of sense does that make? If there were no men, we wouldn't be here either.
    Coop: Are you mocking me?
    Maverick: Don't get ruffled. Let's just say I was agreeing with you in a totally unusual way.
  • Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: Happens after Brett is thought to have fallen to his death over a cliff.
  • Oh Crap: There's brief one seen on the face of the dealer during the final round of Poker. Why? Because he was in charge of stacking the deck to set up the mathematically near-impossible hands of the Commodore, Angel, and Maverick, and Maverick just changed the dealers. He knows that. Maverick has worked out The Magic Poker Equation.
  • One Steve Limit: Near the end, when someone calls out, "Maverick?" both Brett and Coop answer "Yes?"
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Bret points out Annabelle's accent is a little muddy. She herself calls it her "southern".
  • Playing Card Motifs: Certainly expected in a movie based on poker. During a scene where Maverick tries to choose which card he draws from a deck, he picks the Queen of Hearts - a foreshadowing of his romantic encounter with Annabelle Bransford.
  • Professional Gambler: Several characters, including all of the travelers.
  • Quick Draw: Maverick can draw blindingly fast. He pretends that he can't actually hit anything though when in reality he also has Improbable Aiming Skills.
  • Remake Cameo: James Garner, the original Bret Maverick, plays Marshal Zane Cooper in the movie.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Maverick uses this ability to track the fake Indians. Although most of it is parodied just to mess with Anabelle. Really he just follows the horseshoe prints.
  • Shout-Out: Danny Glover plays a bank robber who mutters "I am too old for this...". The scene is a Casting Gag played as Actor Allusion; Mel Gibson, Glover's buddy cop in that franchise, recognises the voice of the bank robber and pulls down his mask, leading the two of them to share a moment (complete with Lethal Weapon musical leitmotif) before shaking their heads and walking away.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Maverick's relationship with Annabell Bransford.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The Commodore's cigar during the final hand of the tournament.
  • Sore Loser: Every time Maverick beats someone at poker, they accuse him of being a cheat and some of them immediately try to kill him.
  • Sword over Head: Coop does this (with a stick) to the Commodore.
  • Take My Hand: Maverick accidentally falls over the edge of a cliff but barely manages to hold onto the edge. Marshal Zane Cooper offers to help him, but Maverick refuses because he despises Cooper. Maverick almost falls to his death and changes his mind, begging for help, and is pulled to safety.
  • Tomato Surprise: Maverick and Cooper are both fully aware that they're actually father and son.
  • Tonto Talk: The Russian duke insists that Joseph speak this way, to Joseph's great exasperation.
  • Wham Line: Cooper finally exasperated at Maverick's constant misquoting of his father - revealing Coop is his father.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Maverick asks this of Annabelle.
  • The Wild West
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Commodore's plan. If he or Angel won the tournament, the two of them would split the $500,000 with Cooper; if anyone else won, Cooper would steal the money and split it with them later. Duvall didn't tell the others that he was planning to kill them and keep the money for himself.
    • Backfires when Maverick interrupts the meeting between Duvall and Cooper and steals the money back. He and Cooper had been running a gambit of their own to get the prize, one way or another.

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