You’ll probably be wondering why this movie was called Peppermint for hours after seeing it. Being that it was the flavour of an ice cream only referenced once in the entire movie, it’s pretty easy to miss the relevance.
You may also wonder how the director of Taken (2008), Pierre Morel, managed to make such a tacky piece of crud. Peppermint is a bland and unimaginative take at the revenge/vigilante justice genre. For some, the return of Jennifer Garner in an Alias-type action role would be exciting. The premise is simple enough; suburban mum Riley North (Garner) is shocked when her husband and daughter are brutally murdered by a powerful cartel. When the judge lets her killers free, she makes the stunning transformation from regular soccer-mum to martial arts and weaponry expert and goes on a crusade to hunt down every last one of the folks who have wronged her.
The movie started out absurd from the very get-go, panning down from the city set into a rocking car, suggesting sexual activity, then going inside the vehicle to show the future badass Jennifer Garner beating the snot out of a thug. At times the absurd plot developments in this movie felt tongue-in-cheek, with Garner’s violence taking on extremely brutal methods. As is often the case with vengeance stories, the vigilante takes the violence too far, for instance, nailing the judge who let her killers’ free hands’ to the desk, then setting him on fire. But, somehow throughout Peppermint, we are expected to keep empathy with Garner’s character.
The plot feels hurried and the writing is extremely sloppy, with awkward one-liners and character twists that make no sense. The audience wants to empathise with Riley because of the horrible death of her family, but it becomes increasingly difficult as she even threatens to brutally murder other soccer moms she didn’t get along with. At one point she even becomes a suburban terrorist on her own personal jihad, threatening to blow up a bottle shop. She justifies her actions to the perturbed and completely innocent store owner, merely for the self-righteous aim of stopping an alcoholic father buy liquor.
Garner’s character is largely unlikeable, and the evil Latino cartel plays off a whole range of stereotypes. The imagery of Santa Muerte, the patron saint of death in league with the cartel was at least visually interesting. However, even the casual viewer will find themselves questioning missed plot opportunities that should have been obvious. Such as in the court case, where the defence lawyer could have argued that Riley was prejudiced against the Latino gang members and only identified them by their many tattoos. Instead, the lawyer makes a ridiculous argument about her using anti-depression medication and therefore being unreliable in her testimony. This is unfortunately just one example of the terrible plot developments in this movie.
The film is rife with overacting and at times borders on hilarious, “so bad it’s good” style stupidity. But worse than all of this, sadly the movie is just boring. One of the critics behind me had fallen asleep by the middle of the film and was snoring loudly, and I even found my drowsy lids dropping here and there.
Ultimately, the movie’s failing was just being utterly unbelievable. The main character’s transformation just didn’t seem realistic. I can’t help but think if there had been more of a supernatural angle, such as in vigilante justice movies like The Crow (1994), we might have believed Garner’s magical metamorphoses into violent superwoman.
Unfortunately, this movie, with all its lack of peppermint, fails to have the value of those after-dinner mints they used to have at Indian restaurants. Even if it’s free you probably wouldn’t take this one.
Jennifer Garner’s character kills a total of 43 people in the movie.