Sean Penn has been many things in his four-decade film career, but "action hero" has never really been one of them. That looks set to change as the two-time Oscar winner has taken the Liam Neeson route of middle-aged kickassery by starring in "The Gunman," an action thriller from "Taken" director Pierre Morel.

The film stars Penn as a PTSD-afflicted ex-special forces soldier, forced to go on the run across Europe to clear his name -- of what, the official synopsis doesn't quite say. Sounds like familiar Euro-thriller territory, though the cast is classier than usual: Penn is joined by Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Jasmine Trinca and Tony-winning stage star Mark Rylance.

Open Road Films has acquired US rights to the French-Spanish-US co-production, and will open it in wide release -- the date has yet to be confirmed. Could they score the same kind of sleeper hit that Morel did with "Taken?" Producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix") knows his way around this kind of material too, having recently brought "Non-Stop" to our screens.

Open Road chief Tom Ortenberg says, “We are thrilled to partner with our friends at Studiocanal, Joel Silver and the entire team behind 'The Gunman.' Sean Penn is certainly one of the most talented actors of our time and it’s very exciting to be working with him in this groundbreaking action role as well as with fantastic filmmaker Pierre Morel who brought audiences 'Taken' and 'The Transporter' franchise.”

"Groundbreaking," eh? Penn hasn't taken a leading role in a film since 2010's "Fair Game" -- does he pack enough heat for this sort of thing, or is he stooping? Tell us what you think in the comments.