Maverick (1994) — A corny western tale

“You know the next time you people come and drive us off our land I’m gonna find a nice piece of swamp that’s so God-awful, maybe then you’ll leave us the hell alone!”

PoolMan’s rating: PoolMan’s card is the King of Maple Leaves

PoolMan’s review: Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you about my mom. A little valuable backstory about the origins of the PoolMan. My mom’s a nice lady. She’s a little loud sometimes, and you can never quite tell whether she’s looking straight at you, but I love her. She’s got just about the best sense of humour of any of my childhood friends’ parents. Having my mom chaperone on the grade 9 band trip was NOT a bad thing. She was hilarious, and remembered quite fondly her own days of trying to fool the band teacher and sneak around and do stuff generally not approved by the parents’ council, which made it all the easier for us to get away with the same. In short, I love having her around. Now let me tell you about mom’s obsession.

His name is Mel Gibson.

I have every reason to believe I’m actually Mel Gibson’s illegitimate son. The way my mother goes on about him, I’d be willing to put a nicely sized bet on her having tracked him down in the mid-’70s and partied it up with him, famous at the time or not. Not that I mind, really. Hell, I know it’s not true, I’m way too tall to be Mel’s kid. But believe you me, if there’s a Lethal Weapon movie on, my mom will come a-runnin’ in hopes of seeing the infamous “butt in the moonbeams” shot. It’s a sealed deal. (Only slightly lower on the priority list is Tom Selleck. Come to think of it, HE’S pretty tall…) In any event, Mel Gibson movies became a staple around my house when he became a bigger actor. And that leads me to just about my favourite modern Western (up there with Quigley Down Under-WAIT A MINUTE), Maverick. If this movie was on, the family was watching it.

In the ’90s, there was a rash of Westerns that all tried to do the same thing: out-grit each other. The Quick and the Dead, the one with Emelio Estevez as Billy the Kid, you know the type. Let’s make the West full of rogues who speak in grunts and do nothing but gunfight. The problem is that all the GOOD gritty Westerns were laid to film decades ago. So what’s left to do? Try a comedy!

Maverick takes the road less travelled, and follows the life of a professional gambler, the titular Brett Maverick. He’s in the middle of trying to raise the money to enter the world’s largest ever poker game, but the world just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with him. Life is constantly flinging new obstacles in his direction, everything from gun crazy Spaniards to blond scam artists to an uncharacteristically disloyal horse. Heck, you know the guy’s got problems when he’s the one Western hero in history to ride into town on a mule wearing a blouse (him, not the mule). Scam after scam after scam, he makes his way there, but only with the best of luck and the strangest of magical abilities.

Historians, look elsewhere. This flick is so full of corn you could microwave it and serve it as a snack. But it’s great that way! Mel Gibson is always in his element when you blend action and comedy, and he gets both here in spades. And if you’ve ever wanted to see Jodie Foster just bust out (no pun intended) and have fun with a role, this is something you have to see. Foster’s performance as Mrs Annabelle Brantford is just too much fun. And the cavalcade of stars doesn’t stop there… James Garner, James Coburn, Dan Hedaya, and even good ol’ Danny Glover all have their moments. You’ll recognize just about every face up on screen, which only adds to the grins.

This movie took a beating from critics, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who remembers it as fondly as I do (aside from dear old mom, of course), but you’ve gotta believe me, just this once, it’s worth seeing.

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