Liam Neeson proved it could be done when, in his mid-50s, he suddenly turned into Hollywood’s hottest action star by launching a new tough-guy persona with Taken. Now that film’s director, Pierre Morel, is at it again, as I say in my video review above. Only this time Morel is working with 54-year-old Sean Penn, who with The Gunman is aiming to be Hollywood’s most unexpected new action hero.

Or maybe in this case it is a little more complex because Penn plays Jim Terrier, a reformed hit man out to discover just which former colleague put a hit on him. Although Jim is trying to live his life on a more honorable plain than in his old days, he is still a bulldog.

This film actually owes more to the Jason Bourne franchise than Taken; it obviously has been crafted to become an action franchise for Penn, in his first starring role since winning a second Best Actor Oscar for Milk in 2009. Penn has been appearing in smaller roles in interesting projects such as The Tree Of Life and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty or lesser turns like his Mickey Cohen in Gangster Squad.  

So no matter what reservations I have with The Gunman, which Penn co-wrote and co-produced, it is good to have this actor, quite frankly one of our finest, back in the saddle. It also has a terrific supporting cast, including Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Idris Elba, with Jasmine Trinca as an underused love interest.

Even in mediocre genre material, Penn is impossible not to watch, just a great screen presence. Penn’s co-writers includeDon MacPherson and Pete Travis. Co-producers on the Silver Pictures Production financed by StudioCanal are Ron Halpern and Andrew Rona. Open Road opens domestically this Friday.

Are you planning on seeing the film? Check out my video review above and let us know what you think.