Josh Brolin has signed on to star in Cartel, the Asger Leth-directed drama for Universal Pictures, portraying a man on a mission to protect his son after his wife is brutally murdered in the gritty world of Mexican drug cartels.

According to Variety, Brolin takes the role Sean Penn was to perform until he left the project in June to take a movie business sabbatical for personal reasons.

Brian Grazer is producing the Peter Craig-scripted drama for Imagine Entertainment.

The drama is inspired by the 1993 Italian film "La scorta," which followed four cops' struggle to guard a special prosecutor trying to bring mob bosses to justice.

Cartel was one of several films that Penn abruptly departed in June.

Production begins in January in Mexico City.