This is the tale of Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson), a charming gambling man who can hustle cards with the best of them, on land or sea, or in this case, the river. We find Bret in a very strange predicament. He is backwards on his horse in the desert with a noose around his neck, reflecting on how he got there. A few days before, he was on the hunt for the cash owed to him by a few friends on his way to a $25,000 entry fee, winner takes all poker tournament that is starting in St. Louis within the week. He runs into a nasty hombre, Angel (Alfred Molina), and his goons, but this would not be their only meeting. Bret goes to the bank to get the money owed him from the manager, Eugene. The bank is closed, so he goes to the saloon. There he joins a poker game in progress. The players are Angel, Southern Belle Mrs. Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), Johnny Hardin (Max Perlich), and and few others. The players are not too trusting of Bret, so to make the game fair, he promises to lose for an hour. They all agree, and when the hour is up, Bret is on fire, and soon gets accused of cheating by Angel. Bret explains to everyone that he was learning their tells and signals during that losing hour. Angel is livid, and means to teach Bret a lesson. When they get outside, four other men accost them, and say that they have to give Bret a beat-down first. What Angel does not know is that Bret had a feeling he would be running into Angel again, so he set up this act to save his own butt. It cost him $100, but it was worth it, except that his good shirt has been soiled.
He goes up to change, and runs into Annabelle, who turns out to be not married, not from the South, and a very tricky thief, but Bret is onto her game, even is she is there to steal back the money she lost in the game earlier. Since his shirt has been soiled and the local laundry is closed, he asks Annabelle to clean it. She agrees, and still attempts to steal from him, but fails. The next morning, finds a package, a clean shirt, and he feels blessed until he tries to put it it has shrunken quite a bit. He sees Annabelle fleeing to the ferry to catch the stagecoach, and manages to catch up with her. On the ferry, they meet Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner [The original Maverick from the 1950s-60s TV series]), who is also headed to the big game on a security detail. Annabelle is trying to enter the big game as well, so they end up sharing the coach together.
En route, the old coach driver dies at the reins, and soon they find themselves in Indian territory, and run into a group of missionaries, women and children, that have been robbed by Indians. The Indians in this region are not hostile, but the drunken bandits that stole their coffers are. they were robbed of $30,000 and some other items. They offer a 10% reward to Bret, Zane, and Annabelle to get back the money and other items that were stolen. After some slinking around, they find the bandits and best them with some unorthodox methods. The give them the reward, and that puts Bret and Annabelle that much closer to their game. Then the real Indians show up. What Annabelle does not know is that the chief of the tribe is Joseph (Graham Greene), one of Bret’s best friends. He is just as charming and as much of a swindler as Bret is. Joeseph is working for The Archduke (Paul L. Smith), a Russian nobleman that is wanting a Wild West experience like the ones he reads about in the dime novels. Joseph also owes Bret money, but he is coming up short as well. He comes up with an idea to get Bret’s money, and well as a way to pocket a little cash for himself. This is just another one of Bret’s misadventures that leads him back to his refection on the end of the noose, with a horse under him, and a bunch of snakes under the very nervous horse.
This is one of the better Western made over the recent years, and it’s pretty funny to boot. It features an All-American soundtrack that most any country music fan will love, and they will see many of their favourite artists in the supporting cast, like Clint Black, Kathy Mattea, and Waylon Jennings. Even old Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle) from The Dukes of Hazzard shows up as a card-cheatin’ old coot. If you love an old-fashioned Western with a little sexy sophistication, or simply love the game of five-card draw, then join Bret Maverick at the poker table very soon.
I give this film a Musing review of