2008’s “Taken” starred Liam Neeson as a father dealing with the “worst nightmare involving your child”. That film and subsequent franchise re-vamped Neeson’s career, elevating him to iconic action movie star status. Now, “Taken” director Pierre Morel presents the mother’s perspective of an even worse situation in “Peppermint”. The revenge thriller features the return to the action movie genre for Jennifer Garner. It could put the likable actress on a similar career path as Neeson.
Garner’s Riley North witnesses her husband and young daughter brutally murdered in a drive-by shooting. When the gang members responsible are under the protection of a corrupt legal system and walk free North decides to go off the grid and plan her revenge. On the 5-year anniversary of the murders she returns to LA, ready for war.
On the surface, “Peppermint” seems like a number of other recent vigilante films: “Taken”, “The Equalizer”, “John Wick”, “Death Wish”, et. al. The obvious difference, of course, is the female spin. And it works thanks to the commanding presence and performance by Garner. Fans of 2005’s “Elektra” will be overjoyed to see her taken out baddies again. Her last legit action role was in 2007’s “The Kingdom”. Since them we’ve mostly seen her in TV commercials, family dramas and in the tabloids with husband/ex Ben Affleck.
In “Peppermint” that familiar persona works perfectly early and as contrast when she decides to go rogue. The action scenes do begin feel a bit extreme as the bodies start to pile-up, but Morel deserves credit for keeping the killings based in reality. Unlike other attempts in the genre, what Garner’s character does isn’t beyond belief.
There are a few cheesy script elements and a couple of unintentionally hilarious moments involving minor characters. But for the most part the story, when you break it down, actually works (including a couple nice twists sprinkled in).
There are beats of this revenge film that are not met; in the 1st act we meet a lawyer, a judge and the 3 criminals who all do her wrong. Theses are the main people we want to see her take out yet all these scenes are cut and merely referenced later. The opening scene shows her taking out a dude but there is nothing tying her to that specific kill.
Also the films title “Peppermint” is very irrelevant, it’s not the main characters nickname, it’s actually the last ice cream flavor her daughter gets before she dies. It’s never brought up again, nor is it referenced to the plot at all. Perhaps they were going for a “Where the Red Fern Grows” set piece in some way of remembrance.
At one point in “Peppermint”, the Capital One spokeswoman actually asks a man for his wallet (a “breaking the fourth wall” nod to the camera would’ve been fun).
They do leave it open for a sequel hinting at a “Punisher” vibe, we shall see.
R (for strong violence and language throughout)
Streaming on VidAngel