Courtesy of STX Entertainment
Can Jennifer Garner ever find an action vehicle suited for her?
Obviously trying to be a cross between “John Wick,” “Taken,” and “The Punisher” - but with a qualified female badass, “Peppermint” lacks the clairty and swagger that made those films (more or less) memorable. “Peppermint” is painfully long and dull, has flimsy plot holes, and can never rise above director Pierre Morel's (“Taken”) contrived narrative. Does he know that he basically ripped himself off?
Not to say Garner isn't suited for the task of the anguished, tormented and fragile mother-turned-killer Riley North – it's that screenwriter Chad St. John can't seem to grasp who her character is. A relentless killer? Or good samaritan of the people? None of it ever gels, and the audience pays the price. The setup comes from a football field away, and keeps on trucking. After her husband, and 10 year daughter are slaughtered in front of her, North becomes a vigilante, seemingly, overnight on the quest for revenge. Don't worry, the film spares us intimate details about how she becomes a trained killer. Apparently in the “Five years later” that sprouts on screen midway through, North (peppermint was her daughters favorite ice cream – its never mentioned in the film why the title borrows from that minor information) vanished to Hong Kong and became a martial arts kick-boxer? Part of me wishes that arch was explored. Then again, it would've just made the runtime longer and thus more unbearable
As for those pesky bad guys (complete with horrible mustaches) – they're – of course – members of a slimy Mexican drug cartel whose only purpose is to talk in very deep voices about drugs. Props to actor Richard Cabral, who must be the de-facto bad latino actor for hire, between this, “Breaking In” and “End of Watch” he's creating quite the catalog of forgettable thugs (Minus “Watch” which was actually quite good). The point is: it's the same motives that every Cartel possess, and they just happened to kill the wrong family members and have to deal with North who will scratch, claw, and dismember anyone she needs too for justice. And with style.
Now some of those thrashings are quite enthralling (specifically inside a pinata store where Garner pounces around like a cheetah) but alas, the payoff gets boggled down by mechanics executed much more efficiently in “John Wick. ” Plus, no-one is that menacing or worth investing in, and so to the audience each death seems like the last.
Whereas a film like “Taken” only focuses on the simplicity of Liam Neeson searching for his daughter, “Peppermint” wants to throw so much on its plate, that it becomes a complex overkill. Including a group of FBI agents (John Gallagher Jr, and John Ortiz) that get tossed a bone every fifteen minutes, and say things like “This isn't how the story ends. ” Yawn.
I could include other preposterous scenarios and goofy twists that never feel earned - (North becomes a beacon for the homeless community? Gimme a break) - but they'd be hard to sell. It seems that Garner can't outrun her past of shoddy action pictures, despite conveying true emotions as a mother who has lost everything.
This movie is a tough one to shake for all the wrong reasons and leaves a bitter aftertaste on the brain.