Director Pierre Morel basically made Liam Neeson a badass with Taken. If you don't think a director has that big of an impact just look at Taken 2, which was flat out awful and didn't have Morel directing. Hell, the man even made From Paris with Love interesting. Morel may have a second chance to turn a dramatic actor into an action star with Sean Penn as he is in talks to direct an adaptation of the novel Prone Gunman, which Penn is set to star in.
The book's plot,-- a spy gets betrayed by his organization and must run from them all across Europe -- isn't too original as far as these thing go, but with the likes of Penn and Morel involved it shouldn't have to be. The film, which should start production this spring, is looking to possibly launch a franchise and the action career of Penn, who I don't really see as an action guy, but if the movie leans more towards thriller it could definitely work. Then again I wouldn't have called Liam Neeson the most badass person ever until after Taken so who knows.
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