It seems like just about every aging actor is angling for their own action franchise nowadays, whether it’s the geriatric warriors of the Expendables and Red films, Liam Neeson in the Taken movies, Bruce Willis in the ongoing Die Hard saga, or Kevin Costner with the upcoming Jack Ryan reboot. But we probably wouldn’t have guessed that Sean Penn would be one of them.

Penn has entered negotiations for Prone Gunman, an action thriller envisioned as the first in a potential series. This is still Penn we’re talking about, however, so Prone Gunman isn’t just another mindless pulse-pounder. It’s an adaptation of a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, a French noir writer with an interest in leftist politics and the human condition. More details after the jump.

Joel Silver and Andrew Rona are set to produce Prone Gunman, with StudioCanal on board to finance. There’s no director yet, but the search is already underway. The Peter Travis-penned screenplay follows an international operative named Martin Terrier (Penn) who wants out of the game. You can probably guess where it goes from there: His plans for a simpler life are dashed when his bosses betray him, and he’s forced to go on the run across Europe.

As thriller premises go, that’s a fairly generic one, but it sounds like this particular project will be somewhat more thoughtful in its approach. THR describes Manchette’s books as “existentialist and involving explorations of politics as well as the human condition. (If the exploration was being done by a relentless killing machine.)” Aside from his celebrated original writing, Manchette’s accomplishments include the acclaimed French translation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, another boundary-pushing genre work.

A start date for Prone Gunman has not been announced. Penn’s got plenty to keep him busy in the upcoming months, but not so much that fitting this movie in would be undoable. Penn next stars in The Gangster Squad, which was due out this year before Warner Bros. pushed it to January, and is next set to direct Crazy For The Storm starring Josh Brolin.

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