You have to wonder if the minds behind ‘Peppermint’ huddled around Netflix on a Saturday night, watched Bruce Willis/Charles Bronson/Liam/Neeson/Steven Seagal etc. etc. administer bone crunching, blood splattering justice to bad guys and thought to themselves, “You know who would be good at this kind of stuff? Jennifer Garner!”
And, quite frankly, it’s not as stupid an idea as it sounds.
Not that ‘Peppermint’ is a great result of the notion – this vigilante exercise is waaaaaaay too routine and paint-by-the-crimson-red numbers to be considered a win. But Jennifer Garner?? Casting her was a very, very good plan. In fact, it elevates ‘Peppermint’ from laughable mess to an almost decent, albeit very imperfect, revenge flick.
Garner has justifiably leaned on safe, clean ‘Mom’ roles for much of the last decade – and really, why not? She IS a mom, she’s sweet, she’s a fierce Mama bear when required, and she’s one darn fine thespian to boot. But let’s not forget, she was once the butt-kicking, midriff-baring superhero, ‘Elektra’. AND she was the heart of TV’s ‘Alias’, a role dependent on top shelf action. If anyone has a pedigree for beating up/shooting up/blowing up thugs, it’s Garner.
….and in ‘Peppermint’, that she does.
Here’s the brief synopsis; Garner stars as Riley North, a woman whose husband and daughter are killed in a drive-by shooting by members of a drug cartel. The system inevitably lets Riley down, letting the killers walk free. Heartbroken and full of rage, North disappears. Flash forward five years later, and a mysterious nomad figure is not only dispersing of drug dealers in all kinds of creative ways (check out the criminals hanging upside down from the ferris wheel, kids!), but acting as a guardian angel for those who are unable to protect themselves along the way.
The film is directed by Pierre Morel who, ironically, also directed Liam Neeson’s similarly charged ‘Taken’. And I suppose the pitch is not a terrible set-up for a dose of popcorn-ingesting fall action, but ‘Peppermint’ is so ridiculous in its presentation – the leader of the cartel is sporting turtlenecks, massive pinky rings, and a mustache that would make Harry Reems blush – you can’t take this movie seriously. Not a chance. In fact, one particular scene in which Riley meets up with a mom who was once extremely rude to her…I’ll let you guess what happens…suggests what ‘Peppermint’ COULD’VE been.
While settling scores with villains who deserve it always has its place for a night out, it’s the lost potential – and the ultimate misuse of one Jennifer Garner – that will be the lasting impression of ‘Peppermint’.