Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Red

Frank Masi/Summit Entertainment

We knew Helen Mirren knew put the sex in sexagenarian. We didn't know the Dame packed heat so credibly. (Admittedly, we were also clueless to the talented trigger finger of her Red costar, John Malkovich.)

Once upon a time, these five actors also caught us off guard with their action-hero turns: 

Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity

Universal Studios

1. Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity: His grit was never in question: He got scary-thin for Courage Under Fire; he willed himself onto the A-list with Good Will Hunting. But he was too preppy to call a Die Hard-type—until, that is, he lost his memory, and found his Bruce Willlis for this 2002 actioneer (and its slam-bang sequels). 

Liam Nesson, Taken

Stephanie Branchu/20th Century Fox

2. Liam Neeson, Taken: He's been a boxer. He's been a Jedi. He wasn't what you'd call the squeamish type in Gangs of New York's bloody opening. Still, we were not prepared for him to inflict so much damage as a clean-shaven Charles Bronson in this 2008 surprise revenge hit.

Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr.

Paramount Pictures

3. Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man: There was little doubt Downey suited playboy Tony Stark to a Scotch-on-the-rocks, undone-tie tee. But could he really fly as Stark's armored alter ego? Yup. (The muscles he amassed for the 2008 flick, and the even more muscles he built for the 2010 sequel didn't hurt his cause.)

Adrien Brody, Predators

20th Century Fox

4. Adrien Brody, Predators: This guy seems like a cool guy. Even a fun guy. (See: The Halle Berry Oscar smooch.) And even though Brody dodged dinosaurs and assorted giant critters in King Kong, he never struck us as an Arnold Schwarzenegger guy. But from the moment he was dropped out of airplane, he did just killer in this 2010 sequel to the Austrian Oak's 1980s blast-'em-up.

5. Katharine Hepburn, Grace Quigley: OK, no, the screen legend didn't exactly pump lead in this 1980s black comedy. But in our defense—and in her defense—she was nearly 80 at the time. Minus heavy ammunition, Hepburn did the next best action-hero thing: inflicting a high body count (with the help of hit-man pal Nick Nolte). All in all, not what you'd expect from the proper Tracy Lord.

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