Review: Peppermint

3 10

PLOT: After receiving no justice in the aftermath of the murders of her husband and daughter by gang members, a frustrated woman reinvents herself as a vigilante, one determined to punish those responsible for ruining her life.

REVIEW: I had certainly assumed PEPPERMINT would be trash, but would it be the right kind? A revenge thriller from the director of TAKEN starring Jennifer Garner as a woman out to destroy a criminal enterprise after they've killed her family certainly seems like it could deliver some cheap thrills. If nothing else, the revenge subgenre is usually able to appeal to our baser instincts, allowing us to get off on the idea of an everyman (or everywoman) taking out lowlives with furious vengeance. Plus, there's some minor excitement over the prospect of seeing Garner return to her asskicking ways after years of playing innocuous roles in family-friendly fare.

Sadly, PEPPERMINT is not good trash. It's trash made up of coffee filters, used diapers and moldy fruit. Utterly disposable.

What is most glaring about the movie is its laziness, its complete refusal to give us any details beyond what is presented on screen. In it, Garner is happy mom Riley North, a bank teller (I think? That's one of many particulars left out) who unfortunately sees her husband and daughter shot to death at a carnival. Her husband was a target because he was considering taking part in a robbery of a major drug kingpin. Obviously, thinking better of it didn't help matters for him. Why was Riley's husband even remotely close to robbing a drug kingpin? The movie doesn't tell us that either; I guess we're supposed to assume he had some kind of shady background, but I'm being totally honest when I say the movie provides next to zero elaboration on the subject. Naturally, the justice system fails Garner, even after she has successfully identified the three assailants responsible for her loss. After being tasered in court for getting hysterical, she escapes custody and vanishes, reinventing herself as an avenging angel who not only targets the bastards who ruined everything for her, but also evidently handling crime in the Skid Row district of L.A. too. She's so badass, the locals have painted a mural of her - admittedly not the best thing for someone who is trying to be low-profile, but she doesn't seem to mind.

peppermint jennifer garner movie review

How did Riley go from everymom to ripped vigilante with a knack for kicking ass and shooting complicated machine guns? The movie leaves these details out too. There is a vague reference to her showing up in Europe or something, and a hilarious moment where it's implied she was an underground MMA fighter, but Morel and screenwriter Chad St. John assume no one will care about the "hows" of her transformation; they're just eager to get her into action, killing dudes with ease. Maybe they're right and I'm overthinking it, but some explanation, however small, would have gone a long way here. At least in TAKEN we knew Liam Neeson's character already had the skills to be a one-man army, so when he went on the warpath it was something we could buy. PEPPERMINT doesn't respect the audience enough to even bother giving us any kind of practical elucidation on what Garner has been doing with her time. She just shows up and boom, can kill about 150 dudes single-handedly. Usually I'm irked by too much exposition, but PEPPERMINT is so in a rush that it leaves out even the most basic information on our hero. That doesn't make her mysterious, it makes her ridiculously undercooked.

If I'm a bit nitpicky on PEPPERMINT's storytelling flaws, it's only because the film doesn't deliver in any other area either. The expected excitement we might feel when watching a vigilante take out the scum of the Earth is not to be found here, since the movie basically has no pulse. (In fact, it's so dull-witted that it even forgets to let us bask in the joy of Riley killing the guys who actually shot her husband and daughter!) The action scenes are fleeting and unexciting; surprisingly, Morel rarely allows Garner to get overly physical, instead settling for boring gunplay time and time again. Any fans of Garner's rough and tumble antics in Alias will walk away severely disappointed by how little she gets to do here. Garner gives a fairly sincere performance - she's good at looking anguished, anyway - but Riley North is barely a character beyond her propensity for gunning down Latino gangbangers. For the most part, she's just a blandly stoic hero with good arms.

There's very little else going on in PEPPERMINT worth noting. The film flirts with a subplot about Riley becoming a hero on social media, but that is never truly developed. The villains are completely forgettable: the main baddie Diego, played by Juan Pablo Raba, has nothing else going on beyond sneering broadly and dispatching henchmen. When the inevitable final showdown between Diego and Riley occurs it plays like an afterthought, barely taking up a minute of screentime. Supporting characters offer little, with a bored John Gallagher Jr. playing a rumpled cop on Riley's trail and a bored John Ortiz getting even less to do as his straight-arrow colleague. You don't look for much nuance in a movie like this, I understand, but these characters make cardboard look interesting. This flick is the very definition of a soulless product.

Not every movie has to be a passion project; there is plenty of room for low-brow shoot-em-ups if they keep things moving at an enjoyable clip. Hell, I'm an unabashed fan of the Charles Bronson DEATH WISH movies (yes, all of them!), and they're as low-brow as you can get. PEPPERMINT is a lethargic muddle, seemingly a chore for everybody involved, from director to cast. Hardly surprising, then, that it ends up being a chore for the audience too.

Source: JoBlo.com



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