Peppermint is essentially Death Wish with a chick. Fortunately, that chick is Jennifer Garner. Otherwise, this movie would be a total bust (unless you’re an uberfan of violent revenge movies). I have a soft spot for Garner, ever since her breakout days as kick-ass spy Sydney Bristow in the TV series Alias (2001-2006). So if nothing else, it was kinda cool to see a hint of Syd’s “particular skills” reveal themselves in her role as Riley North, a young mother who goes to great lengths to avenge the brutal murders of her husband and ten-year-old daughter.
How Riley transformed herself from mild-mannered mom to a justice-seeking killing machine isn’t fully explained. Okay, it isn’t explained at all. Let’s just say she goes off the grid for five years, then returns to L.A. with a vengeance, and with the muscles, moves and ‘military-grade’ firepower to wipe out those who done her wrong: the thugs who killed her family, and the corrupt cops, lawyers and judge who blatantly obstructed justice to protect a drug kingpin.
Riley is ruthless when it comes to payback, but she still has a heart and a conscience. She’s very careful to avoid collateral damage and earns herself a reputation as the angel of Skid Row, which enjoys a significant drop in crime while Riley makes her home there, in a van parked on the street.
Peppermint was directed by Pierre Morel, probably best known to mainstream audiences for the Liam Neeson action crime thriller Taken (the surprisingly good one, in 2008, not the weaker sequels), and written by Chad St. John, who penned 2016’s London Has Fallen, another adrenaline rush flick with a heavy dose of carnage. Those films were paced well enough to keep you engaged, and Peppermint is too. But it doesn’t offer anything new or fresh, and there are some rather gaping plot holes and an over-abundance of crime drama cliches. The trailer pretty much sums up the entire film, so watch that first, knowing there really isn’t much more to learn, other than how the story ends for a broken woman with nothing left to lose.
Peppermint proves Garner can still pull off the action-hero stuff. Just wish she’d been given more to work with storywise. Perhaps it’s time for an Alias reunion movie? Her former co-star Bradley Cooper could direct and reprise his role as best friend Will Trippin, last seen in the witness protection program. Now that would be kick-ass.