I don't know why I avoided 'Maverick' in all the years I was buying DVDs like they some sound investment. Maybe it was the fact I've never been all too enamored with Mel Gibson, even in the years before we found out he was nuttier than squirrel droppings. Maybe I couldn't make myself sit down and watch a film with Jodie Foster attempting to do accents, which is about as much of a strong suit for her as keeping a shirt on is for Matthew McConaughey. Maybe the synopsis on the package sounded about as fun as digging out an ingrown toenail with a spork. I really can't say.
Leave it to my Blu-ray fever to force me to pick up this catalog favorite directed by one of the better 80s action directors, Richard Donner. I'm somewhat thankful I did. I mean, 'Maverick' isn't bad by any means. It actually borders on fun at times, with some very cutesy character interactions and one liners. It's also one of the dumbest damn films I've ever seen. I sat, for two hours, stupefied at how very banal the entire experience was, and that was before one of the worst plot twists I've ever witnessed.
Bret Maverick (Gibson) may sound like the perfect rock or porn star stage name, but that's not his bag. Heck, neither of those two mediums even exist yet. Rather, he's a scoundrel of sorts. A smart-mouthed, quick on his toes, scheming double crosser if ever there were one, so playing poker is a profession right up his alley. He's quick to draw, but a piss poor shot, by his own confession, and can find a player's tell almost just lookin' at 'em. The one thing this fox never expected was to be outfoxed, but that just may be what Annabelle Bransford (Foster) may do, as the conniving, thieving, manipulative woman gets to Maverick at every chance, and he falls for it hook line and sinker. With a half million dollar poker tournament in St. Louis approaching, Maverick is still a few thousand short of the cash needed to enter, and hopes he can call in his debts, with all of his fellow scoundrel friends, who constantly try to outcheat the cheat. When it's all said and done, someone's going to be a lot richer, and Maverick truly believes it will be him. The deck is stacked against him, but he's got a few tricks up his sleeve.
I won't venture into spoiler territory in this review, as I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like me who still haven't seen this bizarre little action comedy romp. The constant twists and turns in the story are what make the movie, and sell the jokes, as frankly, there's a bit of intricacy in all the double crossing and lying going on nonstop. Of course, after a while, the constant rug pulling does get a bit old, and you may find yourself, like me, wondering if it's best to just leave it there.
This television series remake/adaptation has one really neat aspect going for it, the casting of the 1950's Bret Maverick, James Garner. It also has some of the worst damn poker scenes captured on film. They make Topher Grace's scene in 'Ocean's Eleven' seem plausible due to how extremely ridiculous they are. See, poker is the finale of the film, and really, our introduction to Maverick, and is the payoff to the entire story, so it actually has to be good in order to keep the film cohesive. Instead, we get the most implausible, stupid poker tournament ever. Every cliche is in there. Million to one odds? Heck, let's have the ultimate finale at the table, with hands few people will ever hold in their life, let alone all at the same time at the same table. Cheating? Sure, there's lots of it in the tourney, yet it's always magically caught, from angles that don't make sense. It's just selling the characters and their mystique, rather than creating an interesting climax that has been building up the entire film.
'Maverick' has a few high points, especially the scenes with the Indians, led by the hilarious Joseph (Graham Greene), but chemistry seems off between all three of the leads, and after a while, it's hard to really give a rat's ass about their adventure. Bret Maverick starts out as quite an interesting fellow, but as the film rolls on, it becomes more and more obvious he's about as exaggerated as the wild west itself was. This is a cute film, a fun, brainless popcorn muncher that wants to be smarter than it is, and it has its share of fans, no doubt. It's just sad that this could have been a much better film than it is with a few tweaks here and there...and there....and there...
The Disc: Vital Stats
Warner Bros. brings 'Maverick' to Blu-ray on a Region A/B/C BD50 disc that has no annoying pre-menu content, and a silent, static menu with their traditional navigation. This release has not been given an official wide release date, but has been made available exclusively at Best Buy stores across the country as of May 29, with a ridiculous sticker price, but a solid sale price if you get in on it.
Warner gives 'Maverick' a bit more than a high-def heave ho, though I doubt it received too much love and attention for this home video release. The DVD versions of the film come in an old as hell snapper case, and the same release in a keep case, so fans of this film are likely to buy this edition no matter what I say right here, as there is so much room for improvement.
The studio did do a pretty good job with the film, though, which only ups the ante with an 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
The detail levels on the disc are fairly consistent, but there are problematic moments spread somewhat sporadically across the disc that, albeit short, can add up. Grain levels aren't impaired or smeared, and the picture is mostly clean, with only the tiniest blip here and there, which is solid for a catalog title of this age. Picture depth is really, really good, while black levels are appropriate, and whites aren't too busy or distracting. Frizzy hairs leap regularly, and facial features can be highly defined at times. Sadly, some random ringing and occasional blurriness enter the fray and make a mess of things. Skin tones fluctuate to the warm side often, while some entire scenes have characters with no real definition on their skin, which I believe is due to some softness, not tampering. 'Maverick' is good looking, don't get me wrong, but it isn't great looking.
'Maverick' drops a deuce on Blu-ray: two channels of DTS-HD Master Audio that won't win any tournament or even hand.
The narration has good enough prioritization, but the rest of the film has questionable moments, where dialogue becomes secondary to effects, where effects become secondary to soundtrack and score, it's just not exactly the perfect listening experience. It also lacks any real power, while dialogue can sometimes be a bit too flat and/or soft. Separation is solid, really pretty darn good, but all in all, this is just a passable track, and nothing more.
No sir, no sir.
'Maverick' wore thin with me as the film rolled on, but I'm sure others will have a much more enjoyable experience with it than I did. I found it to be a bit dumb, parading around like it was smart, tripping over its own feet regularly due to such. Is this Blu-ray leaps and bounds better than a ten plus year old DVD release? You betcha. Is it a must own title? Not so much. This one is best suited for hardcore fans, and curious parties.