Chad Stahelski knows steel-toed boots in a ballet-slipper world. ‘Sandman Slim’ couldn’t have snagged a more fitting director.
As a bookseller, I regularly put Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” in my customers’ hands. The author’s pitch black sense of humor appeals to me, and I love the idea of a hero who spends most of his time getting his ass kicked. When I heard the rights to Kadrey’s novels were sold back in 2016, I wasn’t sure who they’d find to capture that vibe. Well, according to Deadline, Studio 8 has signed Chad Stahelski to direct. And, you know what? Bingo.
Stahelski’s work directing John Wick is exactly the type of vibe I want out of a Sandman Slim flick. Part of what I dig so much about John Wickis that the first one is practically a stealth Western. At one point, Wick even does a literal barrel run in his Mustang. Whether you agree with that take or not, Stahelski masterfully blended several genres into the perfect presentation for the unstoppable, righteous assassin known as the Baba Yaga.
More than that, he gave us a world to explore. Those assassins have their own secret currency, a network of bases, fiefdoms, crime bosses, and a body removal service that everybody knows. If you really think about it, that world is ridiculously complicated. But, Stahelski’s presentation makes it easy to take in. It feels relatable. It’s just a man and his dog, inescapably angry at loss and grief.
That’s exactly what James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, needs.
The books follow ne’er-do-well anti-hero James Stark. He reads like the kind of P.I. you’d likely find drunk behind his desk, broken by life, who only does his best when it counts. What makes him different than any other sad sack who spends his time getting his ass kicked up and down the block? He spent 11 years in literal Hell, condemned by people whom he thought were friends. Could be worse, right? Oh yeah, he spent that time battling demons in a gladiator pit and as an assassin indentured to the lords of Hell. At least he picked up a badass nom de guerre, right? Hey ma, I spent 11 years in Hell and all I got were these sweet scars and a groovy nickname.
The first book in the series kicks off as Stark escapes back to L.A. only to find his quest for revenge thwarted by the hosts of Heaven and Hell. It’s a fantasy thriller, centered on the murderous revenge quest of James Stark, veteran killer. It’s brutally fun and darkly comical. If Stark appeals as a pitch black exploration of the depths of humanity, then I can’t wait to watch him meet Stahelski’s vision of L.A. Bright, neon lights. Ear-splittingly loud car chases. Maximum devastation. Carnage. Jokes. Brutal fights. Fuck yeah.
Kerry Williamson (What Happened To Monday) is also on board to write the movie. There’s no release date and Stahelski is still slated for John Wick 3 in 2019, but Studio 8 sounds like they’re looking to grow a franchise. And if they pick the right cast, there’s definitely an audience for these movies. At two installments in, John Wick has grossed about $260 million worldwide, spawned a TV show, and is looking strong. Let’s see what the guy can do for Sandman Slim.