The revenge movie where a person loses their whole family and then is denied justice is a common film setup. However, the quality of the experience that follows is far more important than the story elements themselves. Peppermint (2018) gives the role often filled by the patriarch of the family to the matriarch – played by Jennifer Garner – as she seeks revenge for the killing of her husband and daughter. Aside from this, there isn’t much to enjoy about this film unless you really like mediocre action and a fairly boring story.
Peppermint should have been called vanilla…
Riley North (Jennifer Garner) awakens in the hospital to find that the drive-by shooting that put her here killed her husband and daughter, and she is absolutely devastated. When a man arrives at her home to attempt to bribe her from testifying against those shooters, she’s left furious. Then, when that same man ends up being their defense attorney and the judge dismisses the case claiming she is an unreliable witness, she completely snaps. If the system won’t give her justice, then she’ll have to seek justice herself.
The film actually starts at the point where North is already “punishing” the people responsible for taking her family from her. It jumps back five years to reveal the plot synopsis from above. North goes all Bruce Wayne and vanishes across the world after stealing money from the bank where she had worked to fund her training. The FBI had kept tabs on her when possible, and now she’s back and taking out gang members. Now Detective Moises Beltran (John Ortiz) and Detective Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) are brought back to the North case by FBI Agent Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh), who believes the murders of gang members are tied to North.
The detectives had investigated the leader of the gang, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) – though Beltran warned Carmichael that there could be a rat on the force for Garcia. It’s another trope they play on throughout the film in an attempt to add intrigue. However, much of the film feels kind of vanilla, considering that it’s a revenge tale.
Despite the loss of North’s family, the movie never makes the audience feel the weight of that loss, making her actions harder to empathize with. It could be that there isn’t really a moment that plays up her devastation enough or that lets you sit with her loss to really show what she’s going through. Even her training and dedication to her cause is shown in snapshots on a computer screen, making it slightly unclear how much sacrifice she’s made. For a story that should fill us with rage and the desire for righteous fury, I left feeling primarily unaffected.
The dialogue in the film doesn’t add much to the entertainment, either. There are several lines in the film that feels cheesy or overly expositional. The banter between North and the various people she has to fight and eventually kill is fairly stupid. Add in some pretty bad slow motion jittery effects that move a scene forward a few frames at a time for no apparent reason, and the whole presentation isn’t really something worth recommending.
I’ll admit now that I’m not usually a fan of Jennifer Garner. While I still didn’t enjoy much of what she did in this film, I don’t think it was her performance that made Peppermint so bland. Even the usually charismatic, dynamic John Gallagher Jr. was rendered almost stoic with the moments he was given in this film. There just isn’t much to get on board with, and Peppermint thusly earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.