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. A soundtrack for the film, released on Atlantic Records, featured mostly original compositions by contemporary Country Music artists, and an all-star rendition of "Amazing Grace". One cut from the album, Tracy Lawrence's "Renegades, Rebels, and Rogues", was a minor radio hit in 1994, while Clint Black's #1 hit "A Good Run of Bad Luck" (also from his then-current album No Time to Kill) used movie clips in its music video.
This movie contains examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Bert ? Bret, his name's Bret.
- Actor Allusion: During Danny Glover's cameo, as he and Mel Gibson come face to face and they act like they recognize one another, the two note guitar overture from Lethal Weapon faintly plays.
- 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.
- Ascended Extra: An interesting take on this trope. Listen to the theme song of the series, and you'll hear a reference to "Annabelle"—presumably a former love Maverick left because "Luck is the lady that he loves the best". (There's also a reference to a riverboat...)
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Maverick's a master of learning "tells".
- 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.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Angel's way of dealing with Bret once he captures and knocks him out is to set him up on horeseback with a noose around his neck tied to a tree and some very angry rattlesnakes to spook the horse. Angel doesn't even hang around to make sure it works, saying it might implicate him in Maverick's "accidental" death.
- By "No", I Mean "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.
- Card Sharp: A few of the players at the game...but when they get caught, they're thrown overboard.
- 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.
- Casting Gag:
- A bank robber (who states that he's "getting too old for this") is played by Danny Glover, who co-starred with Gibson in Lethal Weapon.
- Several cheats in the big riverboat championship are thrown overboard. The first is Clint Black, who is also the singer of the song over the very montage he's tossed out in.
- 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 pappy 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.
- Another skill is revealed in the first poker-game, namely that Maverick observes EVERYTHING that goes on at the table, and nothing gets by him. "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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Maverick, Cooper, and Annabelle all love doing this.
- Death Trap: After Angel captures Maverick, he leaves him with a noose around his neck tied to a tree, on the back of his horse, with his hands tied behind his back. He also leaves a bag full of rattlesnakes nearby to spook the horse so it will move away and leave Maverick to hang. Luckily the branch the rope is tied to breaks, allowing Maverick to avoid death.
- 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.
- Partially also because the Commodore hired him to keep Maverick away from the poker tournament.
- 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.
- 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.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Also an Anachronism Stew and a combined Critical Research Failure. When the camera zooms in on the clock striking five, the patent number reads 19701. While the patent number is indeed for a clock, it wdas not issued until the year 1900, 25 years after the film is set.
- Gambit Pileup: Angel and the Commodore vs. the Commodore and Cooper vs. Cooper and Maverick.Ange.
- Gambling Brawl:
- Subverted twice during the first poker game, between Maverick, Angel, Annabelle and several others:
- First, John Wesley Hardin (a famous Real Life gunfighter) tells Maverick that a hand of poker Maverick won shouldn't count. Instead of starting a gunfight, Maverick backs down and lets Hardin take the pot. He then demonstrates his lightning fast quick draw skill, thus making it clear that if there had been a gunfight, he could have shot Hardin before his gun cleared his holster.
- Angel accuses Maverick of cheating and wants to fight him, but a group of men suddenly appear and want to fight him too. They go outside and Maverick handily beats the men up, causing Angel to retract his accusation out of fear. Later it's revealed that Maverick arranged to have the men intervene and lose to him if anyone threatened to physically attack him.
- Played straight during the final poker game between the Commodore, Angel and Maverick. When Maverick pulls off a miracle play and wins the tournament, Angel accuses him of cheating again. Angel and his two henchmen draw their guns, but all three are shot and killed by Maverick and Marshall Zane Cooper.
- Subverted twice during the first poker game, between Maverick, Angel, Annabelle and several others:
- 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. And also when Maverick decides to show Joseph his massive stash of money, only to find it replaced with a big wad of newspaper.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Annabelle standing at the feet of the bathtubs of Maverick and Cooper, and glancing into both as she walks between them, going, "My, such splendid similarities!"
- 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.
- Groin Attack: While playing a game of poker, Maverick is accosted by five men who want to beat him up. They chase him outside and a fight starts. During the combat, Maverick kicks one of his opponents in the groin, disabling him.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: During the encounter with the tribe of Indians, Maverick speaks their language just fine (and the Indians know English) and he "translates" for the rest of the group who don't understand the native language, 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.
- 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.
- Hollywood Natives/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. When not obligated to play to an audience, they're as modern as anyone and Joseph not only speaks perfectly natural English but is also fluent in French. It's 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.
- 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.
- Hustling the Mark: Maverick's signature move, especially when playing poker but really just all of the time. He is constantly Self-Deprecating - feigning innocence, incompetence, foolhardiness, and even stupidity - only to later reveal that he has actually been holding the best cards all along.
- 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.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
- It's Personal: After Angel learns that Maverick tricked him into backing down from a fight, he's enraged and is determined to get his revenge. He says "Maverick is mine, anyway. But this time it's personal."
- Karmic Thief: Cooper and arguably Maverick. Cooper himself even talks about how much he enjoyed "nailing" Duvall, and Maverick's "old pappy" quote seems to acknowledge this. Maverick, meanwhile, is only ever shown claiming what he's fairly owed and the money of the truly-corrupt. The movie also indicates that he's in fact just a fantastic poker player, winning fair and square in every game we see him play, which means that he doesn't steal from any innocents either.
- Kiss of Distraction: This is a favorite technique of Annabelle, which she usually uses to steal things. Maverick is very wise to 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.
- Licensed Pinball Table: Yep, it exists, and it turned out to be the final game from Data East. Click here for tropes.
- 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: This trope is played with throughout the film, as Bret Maverick is convinced that he can draw any card out of the deck at will. However, most of his attempts are completely unsuccessful until the end of the film, when he manages to draw the Ace of Spades he needs to complete his Royal Flush and win the poker tournament. The final poker battle on the gambling ship at the end of the film is made of this trope. First, Maverick beats Annabelle by showing his cards, after she thought she won and already started collecting the winnings. Next, the final showdown between Maverick, Angel, and the Commodore. The Commodore shows his hand first: "Two small pair. Eights... and eights." Then Angel shows his hand, "See if you can beat my straight flush!" Maverick finally reveals his royal flush and wins it all, without saying a word. note Also, a large part of the movie is of Annabelle trying to get Maverick to tell her his tells, and she ends up losing on the poker ship from the one tell he didn't let her know about.
- 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.
- Ms. Fanservice: Jodie Foster as Annabelle. With or without being fully dressed.
- 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. However, where she lacked in conning, she is excellent at Sherlock Scan. She was able to deduce right from the start that Zane was Bret's father and went along with it.
- 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.
- 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?"
- One-Word Title: Also a Protagonist Title, being named for the protagonist's last name.
- 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.
- Protagonist Title: Also a One-Word Title, being named for the protagonist's last name.
- Quick Draw: Maverick can draw blindingly fast, though he pretends that he can't actually hit anything. The truth is he also has Improbable Aiming Skills.
- Reality Has No Subtitles: When Chief Joseph first talks to the Russian duke, he speaks in Gratuitous French that isn't translated for the audience.
- Remake Cameo: James Garner, the original Bret Maverick, plays Marshal Zane Cooper in the movie. It doubles as a Mythology Gag when it turns out that he's Bret's father, as Garner had also played Maverick's Pappy in an episode of the original TV series as well.
- Rewatch Bonus: The complicated set of double-crosses and triple-crosses at the end of the film means that on a rewatch the viewer gets to see several characters in a new light, knowing their true agendas. In particular it's interesting to re-evaluate Cooper's reactions to Brett's antics, and especially the pained expression he gets whenever Brett starts banging on about something his old Pappy always said.
- In particular, Cooper is revealed to be an immaculate con artist who enjoys separating cheaters from their money. The film even allows for the possibility that Cooper had masterminded a slew of different plots throughout the film — with any of the other characters — solely in order to achieve that goal.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: Maverick uses this ability to track the fake Indians. Although most of it is parodied just to mess with Annabelle. Really he just follows the horseshoe prints.
- Sherlock Scan: Annabelle knows Zane is Bret's father almost immediately. They both sing "Amazing Grace" the wrong way, for example, and they both have the same ... er, physical characteristics.
- Shout Out
- Zane Cooper's name combines Zane Grey, famous author of Western novels, with Gary Cooper, famous actor in Western films.
- 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). They look at each other as though in recognition, but then shake their heads saying, "Naaah..." before shaking their heads and walking away. As Glover exits the bank, he murmurs, "I'm getting too old for this shit!" And, the guitar track at that moment becomes suspiciously like the Lethal Weapon theme.
- Maverick rides a bicycle belonging to his friend Chief Joseph, who explains that he won it in a card game. This is a reference to another Western movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidnote . In that movie, Butch Cassidy owns (and rides) a bicycle, and is a rotten gambler - so Chief Joseph won his bicycle from Butch!
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Maverick's relationship with Annabell Bransford.
- Something Else Also Rises: During the final hand of the tournament, the Commodore thinks he has an unbeatable hand and his cigar points upward from his mouth. When he realizes another player has him beat, his cigar sags downward.
- 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.
- Theme Tune Cameo: The movie occasionally seems to use Source Music, but never calls attention to whatever is playing it. This is briefly broken when Maverick whistles part of the tune that was playing during the poker game at the start of the movie - suggesting that the music was actually played by a real band in the saloon where the game took place, and that it simply had an Ear Worm effect on Maverick.
- Tomato Surprise: Maverick and Cooper are both fully aware that they're actually father and son.
- Tonto Talk: Parodied. Joseph is fully fluent in both English and French, but the Russian duke insists that Joseph speak to him only in Tonto-speak, to Joseph's great exasperation.
- Wham Line: Cooper finally exasperated at Maverick's constant misquoting of his father - revealing Coop is his father.Coop: I never said that once! You've been misquoting me all your life!
- 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.
- It 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.