By his own admission when he recently picked up his second Best Actor Oscar, Sean Penn isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. His filmography of late ranges from the worthy to the dour to the depressing to the pass-the-Gillettes. However, there are signs that Penn’s attitude towards his work is changing. First, he was linked with the Farrelly Brothers’ Three Stooges movie, and today he’s entered into talks to star in Cartel, an action thriller from producer Brian Grazer.

Yes, you read that right. Action thriller. Sean Penn. Action thriller. The closest Penn has come to an action movie in the last 20 years was the cerebral thriller, The Interpreter, that great shoot-out at the end of State Of Grace, and Terrence Malick’s WWII movie, The Thin Red Line.

Yet here he is, all signed on and ready to star in Cartel, which sounds like a bit of a Man On Fire/Taken type deal. Penn will play Ed Marker, a man who journeys to Mexico after his wife is murdered, to protect his son from dangerous cartels.

The movie – which I’m sure will be tailored for Penn to provide him with some meaty material, rather than glib one-liners – is loosely based on the 1993 Italian film, La scorta. Asger Leth will make his directorial debut on the movie, with Peter Craig scripting.

Brian Grazer will produce for Imagine Entertainment and Universal, although a start date won’t be firmed up until Penn picks up his namesake and signs on the line that is dotted. Once that happens, expect cameras to start rolling by the summer – which should be right around the time I manage to get my head around the concept of Sean Penn starring in an action thriller. Sean Penn. Action thriller. Nope – still looks weird.

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