Jennifer Garner first came to fame on TV playing a kickass spy on “Alias” in the early 2000s. In the new revenge thriller, “Peppermint” Garner puts a laudable amount of effort into persuading moviegoers that she is one of few females who can pull off playing an action hero. Here she plays suburban wife and mother Riley North, whose husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) makes the fatal mistake of agreeing to take part in a buddy’s scheme to steal from drug kingpin Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Rosa). Chris backs out of the plan last minute, but that makes no difference to Garcia, who orders his crew to kill Chris AND his family. After all three are savagely gunned down at a carnival, Riley is the sole survivor. When Riley recovers and seeks justice in court, Garcia pays off the corrupt judge, prosecutor and District Attorney assigned to the case and his entire crew walks away scott free. This is when Garner’s Riley snaps and takes justice into her own hands.
Not surprisingly, Garner’s Riley becomes a social media heroine and is seen as an ‘Angel’ to the residents of Downtown LA’s Skid Row
“Peppermint” has all the same elements of its precursors “Death Wish”(both the original and the recent remake) and “John Wick”. It’s pretty schlocky, formulaic and entirely predictable. The only difference is this time around, it’s a lady hellbent on vengeance. That any audience member will still find it entertaining is largely thanks to Garner. She has the unique ability of seeming both smart enough and physically kick-ass enough to go from from good girl to vigilante. She’s likable enough that you’ll overlook the fact that this transformation supposedly takes place over a mere 5 years during which Riley goes off the grid to train in cage matches and learn how to use (and steal) lots of guns. Even though we know what she is doing is basically wrong, audiences will still be rooting for her each time she sends another baddie to the morgue. After all, who wouldn’t want revenge when the system completely fails you and you have nothing left to lose, right? Not surprisingly, Garner’s Riley becomes a social media heroine and is seen as an ‘Angel’ to the residents of Downtown LA’s Skid Row where she hides out while planning each of her next kills. For the record, nobody calls Garner “Peppermint”, but I won’t say why that was strangely decided to be the movie title.
A team of LA detectives and an FBI agent are on Garner’s trail from the get go. She’s obviously the one behind the killings after all! You probably will be scratching your head (and letting out a giggle) that Garner keeps narrowly escaping the heavy artillery of the Drug Kingpin’s squad after she pulls off another hit. The cops can’t find or catch her either, even AFTER a giant mural of her is painted in Skid Row by the homeless who now idolize her. Not your typical vigilante, Garner’s Riley still makes time to interact with a number of children during her quest for retribution. The lady was both a Mom and Girl Scout Den Mother, after all. Oddly enough, an underlying theme the film seems to want to drive home is that adults should be good to children, no matter how much carnage is happening around them.
“Peppermint” really tastes like a flavor of the month from years gone by.
Garner is supported by a capable cast comprised of John Ortiz and John Gallagher Jr. playing LAPD detectives and Annie Ilonzeh as a brainy FBI agent out to apprehend her. Rapper Method Man appears midway through the film in an entirely wasted role as a detective on the case. A highlight of the film is Garner’s game of one-up-manship with an obnoxious yuppie mother, played to the hilt by Pell James. Rosa stands out as the drug lord Garcia, but I might not be the only one who is slightly put off by the stereotypical Latin gang bangers on display here. They are just one more reminder that as much as it might want to be an action film that breaks the mold, “Peppermint” really tastes like a flavor of the month from years gone by.
“Peppermint” is now on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD.
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Greg Lewis is a pop culture and entertainment vulture. As a freelance writer living in LA, he’ll never run out of material, even if he runs out of Xanax.