In the 2010s, it would appear that there’s no better way to revive a dwindling movie star’s career than to toss them at the center of a gun-fueled revenge flick. From Taken to Death Wish to John Wick, it would appear that what moviegoers are yearning for is good old-fashioned, blood-thirsty vengeance. Not to miss the wave, Jennifer Garner is hitting theaters as a vigilante mom in the decade’s latest – and a strong contender for most vile – toothless shoot-em-up. (Think last year’s Kidnap, but if Halle Berry had a full arsenal at her disposal.) Riddled with the genre’s most glaring clichés and spewing rhetoric that can only be interpreted as caustic fear-mongering, Peppermint rarely goes an entire scene without actively making a case against its own woeful existence.
The laughable script, penned by Chad “London Has Fallen” St. John follows Garner as Riley North (really!), a struggling bank teller who witnesses her husband (Jeff Hephner) and daughter (Cailey Fleming) get viciously gunned down at the world’s stagiest Christmas carnival. After the hopelessly corrupt criminal justice system fails her, Riley is forced to go into hiding, lying in wait to take the law into her own hands. With a little bit of combat training and a lot of heavy weaponry, she turns into some sort of twisted Batman character, taking on a vigilante persona who methodically hunts down all-but-nameless people of color with a level of brutality that would even make Eli Roth blush.
“…the hopelessly corrupt criminal justice system fails her, Riley is forced to go into hiding, lying in wait to take the law into her own hands.”
Jennifer Garner is more than capable as a physical performer, as even casual viewers of Alias can attest, yet these days it seems she’s consistently relegated to the role of ‘The Mom.’ And while it’s refreshing to see her throwing punches and emptying ammo cartridges again, particularly in such a male-dominated space, a garish bloodbath isn’t exactly a flattering look either. Surely, there’s a middle ground we’re missing somewhere. Garner has proven herself as a versatile player, and she deserves better than a film touting a marketing campaign that finds her draped in a pair of wings fashioned out of artillery. This isn’t even a step up from her Capital One commercials; if anything, it’s a career regression.
Completely devoid of any discernible style or originality, Peppermint is an absolute mess, a haphazard collage of genre tropes – and even direct plot beats – from other (read: better) action movies from the 80s and 90s. Even by the standards set by director Pierre Morel’s lackluster career, this movie is uncomfortably predictable, and this is the same man who helmed 2015’s atrocious The Gunman. With a few minor tweaks, it could actually be sold as a shoddy remake of The Crow. But perhaps it shouldn’t be taken at face value. Maybe Morel intended to create a They Came Together style parody of over-the-top action thrillers. On that level, he succeeds.
“It requires extreme deficiencies in both morality and logic in order to get any enjoyment…”
It requires extreme deficiencies in both morality and logic in order to get any enjoyment out of this abomination. And any entertainment to be found in Peppermint is at the movie’s own expense. Not the least of the script’s glaring issues is its tendency to lean heavily on every single offensive stereotype attributed to the Latinx community, and even create some of its own. A jingoistic Trump supporter’s wet dream, this tale is almost impressively racist. It’s as if someone watched a season of Breaking Bad and learned all the wrong reasons. It feels like a dusty relic from an era of overt bigotry we’ve tried to leave buried in the past.
A failure on virtually every level, Peppermint is a slapdash, half-hearted affront to anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in its crosshairs. Early on, our protagonist preaches the gospel of nonviolence to her daughter, and then immediately – and quite ferociously – abandons her bumper sticker platitude so she can animalistically torture those who scorned her. That’s the brand of jarring short-sightedness we’re dealing with here. A mishmash of misplaced scruples and corny, flash burst TV editing, it’s a wonder that Peppermint was ever given a theatrical release. The only silver lining is that it is sure to spark a clever How Did This Get Made? episode sometime in the near future. This abhorrent blunder is almost terrible enough to justify recommending. Almost.
Peppermint (2018) Directed by Pierre Morel. Written By Chad St. John. Starring Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr., Juan Pablo Raba, Tyson Ritter, Method Man, Richard Cabral, Annie Ilonzeh, Pell James, Chris Johnson, Kyla Drew, Cailey Fleming, Jeff Hephner, Michael Reventar.
1 out of 10