’s been four years since Carl Franklin directed his last feature, the above-average thriller Out of Time (worth watching for its crackerjack second act alone). Though toplined by Denzel Washington, the film limped to a $40 million domestic gross, i.e. $10 million short of the production budget. Factor in tepid foreign box office, and it’s safe to say Out of Time lost money for a studio (MGM) that could not afford to lose money. So if you want to know why a skilled director like Carl Franklin hasn’t called the shots on a studio gig for a while, this plus the overall crappiness of 2002’s High Crimes (an exceedingly lame entry in the Ashley Judd-Morgan Freeman co-starrin’-but-not-miscegenatin’ genre) should explain everything.

I have no idea if Franklin gives a shit about his critical reputation. My guess is that a sizable paycheck trumps waiting around for Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry to clear their schedules to make a quality picture like Tulia. This would explain Franklin’s decision to helm The Maintenance Man, an adaptation of huckster Michael Baisden’s novel about a player renouncing his libidinous lifestyle. This material is decent grist for satire, but, in the hands of aging sitcom writer Ralph Farquhar, it’s going to be shit.

Screen Gems (who else?) is developing this as a leading role for… I’m gonna guess Katt Williams. Franklin will direct episodes for Steven Spielberg’s The Pacific while he’s prepping this decidedly unpromising venture. It’s sad for a director of Franklin’s talents to be reduced to this, but success breeds better opportunities. I’m just not sure Franklin has better movies than One False Move and Devil in a Blue Dress left in him.