A struggling low-income family finds themselves as the victims of a gang hit. Riley, the sole survivor initially seeks justice under conventional means. When her family's killers walk, North decides to avenge her loved ones and embarks upon a journey of vigilante justice.
When Peppermint was announced, Jennifer Garner fans absolutely salivated for her return. Indeed we haven’t seen much of her since her very public split from Ben Affleck, maintaining a very low profile. Peppermint’s moniker “The System Failed, She Won’t,” absolutely thrilled fans who harkened back to Garner’s nonsense ass-kicking role in the hit show “Alias.” Unfortunately for them, and the rest of us, Peppermint is anything but a sweet treat and leaves a sour taste on multiple levels.
It’s difficult to pin down all of the film’s shortcomings as there is a multitude that all weave a perfect pathway to ultimately concluding in an emotionally bankrupt endeavor rife with problems that lack to give what was an already cliche’ paint by numbers formula its own unique voice.
The film combined with Garner’s performance suffers from pacing. In the initial 20 minutes, the audience is supposed to connect with the character Riley North as a struggling wife who’s overworked and strains to keep her family, her daughter being her primary motivation, in positive context despite their financial woes. The linchpin of events lands squarely on her husband who simply considered a plan of theft from a powerful drug lord with connections to the Mexican cartel. This minor act in which the husband never even has a single encounter with Diego Garcia, the films kingpin, decides to order the execution anyway. This was the first telltale crack in the plot. The predictability of the following sequence of events in which the criminal justice system tosses out the case, freeing the hitmen and North’s subsequent disappearance while she trains for 5 years in mixed martial arts only to return to Avenge her brood is one scene after another that brings no real emotional investment.
In some sequences, the flashbacks desperately try to drive home her trauma and the process in which Riley transforms from den mother to death dealer are too one dimensional and overreaches. As the film progresses the scenes shift from one another quickly trying to pack in failed character development. Every other character in this movie has marginal significance. Even Detective Stan Carmichael who is the films sole effort to introduce a surprise twist has almost no interaction with her directly at all. Yet everyone is so focused on her capture or slaughter that you begin to question the film’s reliance on convenient circumstances. The plausibility of the events of 5 years in absence makes one wonder, outside of her husband and daughter, did no one else have any relationship with her at all? Parents, family, friends? Nope. Guess not.
Garner is given little to work with. The script offers no redemption to the actress as she bumbles her way through one awkward encounter to the next. The dialog between characters is trite, cliche’, and displays a significant disconnect between Garner and her role as widow turned guerilla war maiden. Believability is really the films paramount problem. I wanted to like Garner in the role of action but felt like the director allowed for kid-glove treatment only. The brutality we saw with the comparable Atomic Blonde in which Theron trudges through the film as one giant bloody pulp escapes Peppermint. There are a few sequences where makeup gets smudged but even the moments when she suffers a serious wound the gravity is lost as she is shored up with a visitation of her angelic daughter, a medical staple gun, and a menstrual pad. How clever. How original.
I have to say in our current social climate, the story of a white American women shooting up one nameless random and completely interchangeable tattooed Mexican gang member is pretty insensitive. It’s not that cartels and crews aren’t real, it’s simply that like her costars, there’s no significance or individuality to any of their identities. Instead, they’re simply target practice for North as she rips, shreds, and shoots her way from one scene to the next.
Overall though I really wanted to enjoy the film, and I did for the mindlessness after coming to terms with the flick on its own level, which is possible as the duration of the film reaches just over 1 hour and 40 minutes. Any longer and the film would only have continued to decline. As it is, Peppermint is a weak foray for Garner to get back into a-list actress status and leaves audiences feeling like another movie selection was likely a better idea. Though the conclusion screams that the studio wants you to know there will be a sequel, I find the idea befuddling and pointless. With a box office gross of 31 million and a production budget of 25 million, Peppermint would and should get some significant retooling before another installment is thrown against the wall.
Despite what would seem to be a sure thing, Peppermint is an extremely forgettable bland action flick that leaves absolutely no commitment or impact with the viewer.
Peppermint Pity: Jennifer Garner as Avenger is Ultimately a Failure
Writing - 4/10
Storyline - 4/10
Acting - 5/10
Music - 5/10
Production - 5/10
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