Total Recall: Best Joel Silver Productions
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows producer.
4. The Matrix
At the unlikely intersection of sci-fi, noir, and "whoa," The Matrix postulated a future world in which sentient machines harvest energy from people housed in vast pod farms, with only a remarkably adept kung fu student named Neo (Keanu Reeves) standing between the human race and indefinite servitude. Taken as a whole, the trilogy might be uneven, but the Matrix movies blended sleek futurism, messy cyberpunk, and good old-fashioned action thrills with an original audacity that hasn't been seen since. "If there has to be a quintessential film for the end of the millennium," wrote Kevin N. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal, "this is it."
Movies had been making cash out of the male buddy dynamic for decades before Lethal Weapon came along, so it would be a mistake to call it groundbreaking, but it was still one of the more influential (and successful) action flicks of the late '80s. Of course, that influence was partially felt through turkeys like Tango & Cash -- not to mention Weapon's three uneven sequels -- but let us focus here on the positive: Gibson and Glover have the easy chemistry of two old friends, Richard Donner's direction is at its sleekest, Shane Black's script combines laughs and thrills in equal measure, and Gibson's mullet was never more exquisite. The role of mentally unstable cop Martin Riggs wasn't really anything new for Gibson (Time's Richard Schickel cracked that the movie was "Mad Max meets The Cosby Show"), but it put him squarely in his wheelhouse, and introduced filmgoers to one of the more interesting and complex characters in the genre. "From a distance, Lethal Weapon might appear generic," wrote James Berardinelli of ReelViews, "but a closer look reveals something special."
2. 48 Hrs.
The movie that launched Eddie Murphy's film career, Silver's box office reign, and arguably the entire "buddy cop" genre, Walter Hill's 48 Hrs. overcame a stint in turnaround and countless rewrites to become one of 1982's biggest hits. A number of Murphy's most memorable silver screen bits are here, including his impassioned rendition of the Police's "Roxanne" and the classic scene where he stuns a bar full of rhinestone cowboys into submission; in fact, you could argue that the template for his entire early film career -- and the "classic" Murphy whose disappearance we bemoan so frequently -- was molded from the impression left by the wisecracking Reggie Hammond. It's temping to wonder what might have been if 48 Hrs. had been made as the Clint Eastwood/Richard Pryor vehicle it started out as, but as Roger Ebert noted, this is a film that transcends its rather limited set of ingredients because of its stars: "The movie's story is nothing to write home about. It's pretty routine. What makes the movie special is how it's made. Nolte and Murphy are good, and their dialogue is good, too -- quirky and funny."
1. Die Hard
Later installments in the series may have taken the title a little too seriously, but when Die Hard debuted in 1988, it represented a return to reality of sorts for the action thriller genre. Unlike increasingly bulbous action heroes like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis looked like a fairly average guy -- and he acted pretty much the way you'd expect a good cop to act if he were trapped in a skyscraper with a pack of terrorists, which is to say he was bleeding, confused, and frightened for most of the movie. Audiences, meanwhile, were thoroughly entertained -- and so were critics like the New York Times' Caryn James, who wrote, "The scenes move with such relentless energy and smashing special-effects extravagance that Die Hard turns out to be everything action-genre fans, and Bruce Willis's relieved investors, might have hoped for."
In case you were wondering, here are Silver's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Die Hard -- 91%
2. V for Vendetta -- 88%
3. Predator -- 83%
4. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang -- 83%
5. The Matrix -- 81%
6. Sherlock Holmes -- 81%
7. Lethal Weapon -- 81%
8. Lethal Weapon 2 -- 75%
9. The Matrix Reloaded -- 74%
10. RocknRolla -- 72%
Finally, here's a star-studded tribute to Silver, who was named 1990 Producer of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners: