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May 20, 1994

Maverick is a 1994 American western comedy film directed by Richard Donner and written by William Goldman. Based on the 1950s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins, the film stars Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, a card player and con artist who collects money in order to enter a high-stakes poker game. He is joined in his adventure by Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), another con artist, and Marshall Zane Cooper (James Garner), a lawman. The supporting cast features Graham Greene, James Coburn, Alfred Molina and many cameo appearances by Western film actors, country music stars and other actors.

Released theatrically by Warner Bros. on May 20, 1994, the film was both a critical and commercial success, having grossed over $183 million worldwide. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Storyline

In the American Old West, gambler Bret Maverick is on his way to a major five-card draw poker tournament being held on the paddle steamer Lauren Belle. Maverick wants to prove he is the best card player of his time. Short $3,000 of the $25,000 tournament entry fee, Maverick travels to the town of Crystal River, intending to collect on debts and win money at card games. At an impromptu poker game, he encounters the ill-tempered gambler Angel, the young con artist Annabelle Bransford, and lawman Marshal Zane Cooper. He wins a massive pot from Angel, but must flee without collecting his winnings.

Maverick, Bransford and Cooper journey out of Crystal River together, overcoming runaway stagecoaches and aiding migrant missionary settlers who have been waylaid by bandits. The settlers offer Maverick a percentage of the money they have desperately need to start their mission, while one spinster missionary suggests marriage to Cooper, but both men turn down their offers. The trio are later cornered by a band of Indians led by Joseph. His companions are unaware that Joseph and Maverick are good friends; Maverick "sacrifices" himself to allow his companions' escape. Joseph owes $1,000 to Maverick; they swindle that amount from a Russian Archduke with a scheme that "allows" him to hunt and kill an Indian (Maverick, in disguise).

Angel, still seething that Maverick bluffed him at their previous poker game, receives a telegram instructing him to stop Maverick. Angel and his mercenaries catch up to Maverick, but unable to find his money, leave him for dead. Maverick escapes, recovers the $23,000 hidden in his boot, and makes his way to the Lauren Belle. He reunites with Bransford and Cooper, and Bransford is still short $4,000 herself. Spotting the Archduke aboard, Maverick poses as a U.S. Marshal investigating the shooting of Indians for game, conning the Archduke of $6,000 to cover his and Bransford's entry.

Commodore Duvall welcomes the twenty competitors to the tournament, with Cooper overseeing the security of the game and the prize money, and watching for any cheaters, who are summarily thrown overboard when discovered. Eventually, only four players are left: Maverick, Bransford, Angel, and the Commodore. During the break before the final round, Maverick and Bransford have a tryst in his quarters. After Bransford leaves, Maverick finds he has been locked in to attempt to make him forfeit the game, but manages to climb outside the steamer to make the game on time. Bransford is eliminated early, and as the match comes down to Maverick and Angel, Maverick notices the dealer dealing from the bottom of the deck. He calls this out, and with Angel and the Commodore all-in with strong hands, Maverick is able to pull one card to complete his royal flush. Angel and his men try to shoot and kill Maverick, but Cooper and Maverick shoot first, killing them.

During the closing ceremony to give Maverick his winnings of $500,000, Cooper says he will keep the money for himself and escapes. Later that night, Cooper secretly meets with the Commodore, revealing that the two had struck a deal to steal the money for themselves and that Angel was working for the Commodore. The Commodore draws a gun and breaks his crooked deal with Cooper, when Maverick appears, having tracked them down, and takes back his prize money. Some time later, Maverick is relaxing in a hot bath when Cooper finds him, revealing that Maverick is Cooper's son, and the two had planned this windfall long in advance. As both men enjoy the baths, Bransford arrives, having discovered the father-son relationship from earlier trysts, and walks away with the bag containing the prize money. After she leaves, Maverick reveals to Cooper that he allowed Bransford to take the money uncontested, since he took Cooper's advice and kept half the prize money in his boots. Maverick admits it will be fun retrieving the rest of the funds.

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