Joel Silver: End of an Era as Studios Pull Back from Deluxe Producer Deals

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by Anne Thompson
September 25, 2012 3:56 PM
4 Comments
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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. 

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4 Comments

  • Peter Nellhaus | September 27, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    I would also laud Silver for the racial diversity in his casting. "Predator 2" was probably the first major movie where a black man, Danny Glover, saved the world.

  • sf | September 26, 2012 10:38 AMReply

    Aww that's too bad. This article started like it was going to be about an actual end of an era and how studios have had to adjust to a wider array of competitors. That might have been an interesting read. But it turned out just to be an exercise in crapping on Joel Silver. I remember when IndieWire wasn't a rag.

  • Brad | September 26, 2012 9:42 AMReply

    Executive Decision should be lauded for killing Steven Segal off in the first half hour. Also the Last Boy Scout was a pretty good flick.

  • Maxim | September 25, 2012 4:00 PMReply

    Awesome producer. Thanks for making movies like "Speed Racer" (which is awesome) possible.

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