**This review will contain spoilers**
Directed by Pierre Morel and starring Jennifer Garner, Peppermint overall is a mixed bag. It’s a vigilante film that hasn’t quite given itself over to the cynical lens that usually accompanies such fair. Think The Legend of Billie Jean meets The Punisher, with a few tidbits of John Wick sprinkled in for flavoring. It’s a mix that doesn’t quite work as a whole but when taken in as segments each mode is handled well.
Many films in this day and age run away screaming at the notion of portraying non-whites in any fashion save for that of the noble deity whose heart is as pure as the driven snow. Peppermint refreshingly eschews this nonsense (mostly) by having the primary antagonist be a drug cartel run by a man named Diego Garcia (played quite well by Juan Pablo Raba).
Jennifer Garner plays Riley North. A woman out to avenge the death of her husband and daughter. Riley’s husband Chris was going to work with a friend of his to steal some of Garcia’s money. Chris backed out, Garcia killed his friend, and then Garcia put a hit out on Chris to “send a message”. This message delivery took place at a carnival via drive-by with Riley present to witness her family mercilessly gunned down.
Garner easily sells us that she’s a grieving widow and mother, but what adds spice to her performance is the underlying mania behind the eyes. We get the impression that this horrific event has irrevocably snapped something deep within her allowing a white-hot rage to seep through the cracks. Riley uses this heat to forge herself into a weapon of unbridled vengeance. The best moments in the film are when this character unleashes this rage on her foes. Here, Garner’s history of being an action heroine (Alias, Elektra) serves her well. Methodical and direct, no witty banter today, the violence is deliciously brutal and entertaining. Close up head shots, stabs to the neck, bombs, whatever gets the job done is what’s scribbled in blood on Riley’s playbook.
“We’re not going to prison” — Riley North
However entertaining, Peppermint is far from perfect. The aforementioned reference to The Legend of Billie Jean was no fluke. The film has many moments of childlike naiveté that edges into TV movie quality proceedings. Scenes, like when an FBI agent shows a documentary quality video recap of Riley North’s 5 year progression from loving mom to brutal vigilante was particularly silly. For someone who was supposedly trying to stay off the grid, Riley North spent a heck of a lot of time in front of surveillance cameras (and recorded MMA matches no less). The characters we are introduced to in “skid row” also required a double-take or two. You’d think they wandered off the set of an 80’s CBS Christmas special. Hobos with hearts of gold. Even homeless kiddies decked-out in full impoverished regalia circa 1913. But all this is forgiven when we see Riley put a bullet through some thugs forehead at point-blank range.
Near the end of the movie it is telegraphed that like Billie Jean 33 years before her, Riley North’s destiny lies with becoming a living legend. Any tether to reality vanishes as Riley makes like Batman and fades into the smoke under the scrutiny of the entire police force, media, and eager cell phone videographers. When Detective Moises Beltran sneaks her a key to her handcuffs as she lays in her hospital bed after slaughtering (rightly so) dozens of baddies outside of jurisprudence you can almost hear the sequel announcement.
Which is fine by me. We need more heroes like this. Maybe she could team up with Bruce Willis’s Paul Kersey from Death Wish.
I suggest the sequel (assuming we get one) take place in Chicago.
I hear they have a bit of a crime problem.
4 out of 5 stars
SJW Propaganda Meter:
Not too much. Safe to eat.
Peppermint starring Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher jr., Juan Pablo Raba, and Tyson Ritter is playing in theaters now. Go see it and help move the needle away from PC crap.