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Quite the cheery revisionist history of the life of Jesse James, the delayed release American Outlaws doubles as a Young Guns for the next generation, both in its righteous-outlaw structure and matinee-idol function. Whether the moviegoing public needs either project is doubtful. After a brief revival in the 1990s, westerns had again become a yawn by the early 21st century, especially those featuring a cast of poor man's alternatives to charismatic stars. Director Les Mayfield treats every robbery, shootout or narrow escape from the gallows as a chance for the actors to crack jokes and peddle their charm. This framework prevents the movie from developing a sense of weight or momentum, which might be okay if it were funny enough. It also entirely recasts James as an essential pacifist and darn fine gentleman to boot, a decision designed to propel Colin Farrell toward maximum heroic stardom. But Mayfield's dishonest interpretation of the character panders to the audience, undercutting Farrell and doing little for the other small-timers (Ali Larter and Scott Caan) trying to leapfrog to the next level. As the action goes, only one clever stunt along the outside of a train stakes claim to original choreography. American Outlaws was pushed back from a spring 2001 release to the dumping grounds of late August to avoid competition with Texas Rangers -- a worse disaster of a movie that ended up getting shelved for more than a year anyway. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide
Mel Gibson transplants his winking, nothing-can-go-wrong attitude from the Lethal Weapon movies to this high-energy, tongue-in-cheek update of the classic Western TV series, co-starring James Garner and Jodie Foster. After three previous collaborations, Gibson and Richard Donner are so familiar with one another that Maverick feels effortless, even during its big production numbers and smartly choreographed chase sequences. This is both an endearing quality and a fault of the film. Everyone is having such a good time, and the tone is so light, that even when Gibson is tied up on horseback with a noose around his neck, about to be lynched, he seems to know the situation will have a humorous outcome. The result is a film utterly satisfied with existing as big-budget escapism, whose empty core is beside the point. Beyond Gibson at his most glib and charming, Maverick finds Garner in winning form, serving as the link to the old series, and Foster indulging in surprisingly commercial fare by her standards, to good effect. This cartoon world of gunslingers, whose wit is as quick as their draw, culminates in a grand riverboat poker game, full of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. It's nothing more than a pre-packaged popcorn flick, but it's a reasonably fun one. Maverick was screenwriter William Goldman's first return to the Old West after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide
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