nullShooting is underway here in New York City on the film adaptation of Lawrence Block’s hard-boiled crime novel A Walk Among The Tombstones, which we’ve been following since 2011, updating you as new developments happen.

Liam Neeson is starring, with Scott Frank directing from his own script adaptation.

The basic story goes: The wife of Kheran Khoury, heroin wholesaler, is killed after he haggles over the price of her ransom. With the help of a street-wise kid, ex-cop Matt Scudder is hired to track down the killers whom he learns aren’t exactly new to the habit.

And while Neeson’s isn’t at all the face that I pictured when I read the novel the film will be based on, what I want to draw your attention to is the fact that there’s a major supporting character in this – an African American teen – who actually plays a substantial, if pivotal role in the book (I don’t know if the shooting script that Frank is working from is an exact copy of the book, but, if you’ve been following my posts on this, you’ll know that I’ve always assuming that the character, named TJ, will transfer to the screen, since he’s involvement in the story is important enough that it would be odd if he was dropped in the adaptation).

To be clear, in the novel, TJ is as stereotypical a character as you can get in this kind of hard-boiled crime novel. He’s a young black man from the streets, obnoxious, mouthy, and of course he’s street smart, and is depicted as you’d expect a young black kid from the hood to be portrayed (at least in the novel). But he’s essentially our hero’s, Matt Scudder’s/Liam Neeson’s, sidekick, and connection to those areas of the city that Scudder himself would have a challenging time infiltrating.

TJ also happens to be very well-connected, and, at least once, hooks Scudder up with resources that end up being incredibly vital to his investigation.

BUT, if you’re willing to look past his stereotypical *faults* in the narrative, you’ll appreciate TJ’s craftiness, smarts, passion, dedication, and edge, and knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s the man with the answers and the plan, and turns out to be very necessary in Scudder’s investigation.

AGAIN, I’m going solely on the novel here, which I read 3 or so years ago; the script that Frank is directing from currently, could look exactly the same as the novel, or entirely different, with TJ written as a kid from some other mold.

We’ll find out soon enough.

And with today’s news that US X Factor contestant BrianAstroBradley has joined the film’s cast, I can only guess that he’ll be playing TJ, even though the casting announcement doesn’t say what role exactly Astro (who’s 16 years old) has signed up for. Unless Frank has taken creative liberties with the adaptation, there’s no other part in the story for a 16-year-old black kid.

I actually don’t know anything about this Astro kid, other than that he was a popular X Factor contestant in 2011 (he looks rather young in the photo above, but that’s how he looks in just about all the photos of him I came across online, which were primarily X Factor photos – he was 15 then. So he might actually look a little older now at 16/17).

His IMDB resume doesn’t contain much to suggest that he can act. It just seems like an odd choice by director Frank, and one that I would never have considered. I wonder why he went with Astro, instead of an actor with experience. Does he have a large following, maybe?

But I’m actually a fan of the entire Matt Scudder series of novels. I’ve read 4 or 5 of them; they’re relatively fast, entertaining reads. Block pulls no punches with the material, and makes no apologies. It’s straightforward, unpretentious, hard-boiled, violent, bleak, gritty, New York-set crime fiction, so you’ll find a mix of characters of all skin colors and ethnicity, without any concern whatsoever for PC depictions. 

So you’re either with it or you’re not. I was, and I think they would make for some really good genre films. 

Although, in this age, the adaptation may opt to go the more PC route, and clean up the stereotypes so as not to offend anyone. But I think that would kill part of the essence of the novel.

As I said, I haven’t read the most recent version of the script that Scott Frank is shooting from, so I can’t say what’s been done with the adaptation. Sergio read an old version of the script, years ago, and said he loved it. What the script looks like today, we can’t say.

The project had been “in development” for a long time, and it looks like it’s finally coming soon to a theater near you, likely later this year, or early next year with Neeson in the starring role, and now Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley, as well as Dan Stevens, Ruth Wilson, Boyd Holbrook, and David Harbour.

Block’s Scudder character was previously played by Jeff Bridges in the 1986 Hal Ashby-directed 8 Million Ways To Die, from a script penned by Oliver Stone.