Joel Silver
Joel Silver

Just look at Silver's credits. What did he bring to the party on "The Matrix" series or any of the films he produced for the Wachowskis? He has dined on the franchises he was lucky to be part of, from Richard Donner's "Lethal Weapon" series to "Sherlock Holmes," directed by "Rocknrolla" director Guy Ritchie and starring "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" star Robert Downey, Jr., whose wife Susan also produced the series.

But over time, with few exceptions, Silver's films are recognizably of a piece. At the start of his post-NYU career, he worked for Lawrence Gordon on three terrific Walter Hill films: "The Warriors," "Streets of Fire," and "48 HRS.," plus Hill's less successful "Brewster's Millions." With Gordon, Silver also launched Fox's mighty "Die Hard" and "Predator" series. On his own, Silver did strong action work with the relatively lean "Commando," starring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, at Fox.

But at Warners, until Silver headed in the direction of low-budget genre fare with his horror label, his big-budget studio films represent the loud, overwrought, costly, cynical audience-pandering formulas that many have been decrying for years. Some of the films he made are laughably bad, from "Road House" and "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" to "Hudson Hawk" and "Richie Rich." A critics' darling he is not.

Other titles are just mind-numbing, among them "Action Jackson," "Fair Game," "Executive Decision," "Demolition Man," "Conspiracy Theory," "Romeo Must Die," "The Last Boy Scout," "Swordfish," "The Reaping," "The Invasion" and "Whiteout."  (I'll give him "Ricochet," "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and "Book of Eli.")

Will the one-time uber-producer be able to change his stripes outside of the garden of paradise? We'll soon see.