EXCLUSIVE: Pierre Morel has signed a deal to direct Big Stone Grid, the high-concept suspense thriller that is penned by Bone Tomahawk‘s S. Craig Zahler. This is the project Michael Mann was talking about producing and directing back in 2012 when Sony had acquired Zahler’s spec. Lotus Entertainment’s Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel and Ara Keshishian are now producing alongside Adam Fields and Josh Bratman. Lotus (Z For Zacharia, Replicas) will finance and handle worldwide sales.

The plot is under wraps but is believed to revolve on a pair of big-city detectives caught in a cat-and-mouse game with serial killers who have themselves been extorted into committing heinous crimes. The original script had the action set in New York. Production on the pic in now slated to begin shooting early next year. Casting is underway.

Morel helmed the original thriller Taken starring Liam Neeson, which spawned two sequels, as well as the Sean Penn pic The Gunman and his French-language thriller District B13. He recently launched his international production shingle with the Euro heist film Overdrive starring Scott Eastwood and Ana de Armas.

He is repped by CAA, Sentient and Hansen Jacobson.