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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Peppermint" a not-so-fresh take on an old premise

Sep 07, 2018 10:15AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Jennifer Garner in Peppermint - © 2018 STX Films.

Peppermint (STX Films)

Rated R for strong violence and language throughout.

Starring Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Method Man, Richard Cabral, Annie Ilonzeh, Juan Pablo Raba, Tyson Ritter, Pell James, Chris Johnson, Kyla Drew, Cailey Fleming, Michael Reventar.

Written by Chad St. John.

Directed by Pierre Morel



“Vengeance is mine,” saith Hollywood. Revenge movies hit their heyday back in the 1970s with Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series. Such movies become popular when the news media ramps up coverage of inner-city crime, pandering to the fears of the middle-class, convinced that sinister people would prey on their innocent children. Death Wish got a remake with Bruce Willis earlier this year, so why not give the ladies a chance? Peppermint, starring Jennifer Garner as a mother out for vengeance is the same basic movie as Death Wish.

Garner plays Riley North, a working-class mother whose husband Sam (Tyson Ritter) and cute little daughter Carly (Cailey Fleming) are gunned down outside an amusement park by thugs who are assigned to kill them at the behest of “Garcia” (Juan Pablo Raba) the local drug cartel leader. The details behind the hit aren’t all that important, but suffice to say it was all a big misunderstanding, and drug cartel guys just don’t care about innocent collateral damage.  After Sam and Carly are gunned down in the amusement park parking lot, Riley recovers from her own wounds in time to finger the thugs who are arrested for the murder. We quickly learn that the entire justice system is corrupt, from the attorneys, prosecutors and police – leading to the exoneration of the killers. Riley doesn’t take this well, and disappears for five years, apparently training to become a killer. When she returns, the bodies of Garcia’s killer thugs, the corrupt judge (what’s left of him), corrupt prosecutor and others begin to litter the streets of Los Angeles, prompting Detectives Carmichael (John Gallagher, Jr.) and Beltran (John Ortiz) to search for Riley, having handled the botched investigation of her family’s murder five years prior. The FBI joins in and the hunt for the “killer angel” is on. But Riley is still on the hunt for Garcia and the rest of the film is a race to see who will get whom in a hail of gunfire.

To say Peppermint is a carbon copy of Death Wish (new and old versions) would be giving the movie too much credit. Yes, it’s basically the same premise with switched genders, but Peppermint takes some fairly noticeable lazy leaps to transform a hard-working soccer mom into Rambo. Seriously, the backstory to the missing five years between the murder of Riley’s family and the time she starts turning drug cartel minions into human hamburger spans about five minutes, conveniently explained by an FBI agent (Annie Ilonzeh) reading her dossier.

When you couple the lazy, not-so-fresh plot with the “justifiable” thrill killing and predictable outcomes, you get Peppermint, a very forgettable movie with little redeeming cultural or entertainment value. Some may get a rush out of seeing bad things happen to bad people, but for the most of us, such a crime world is a thing of fantasy.

Garner doesn’t do much help her wavering career (between her super-sweet mom roles), offering up a wooden and unsympathetic performance. Yeah, she’s all buff and brutal in Peppermint, but the movie doesn’t seem like a good launching point into a new career path.