It’s been a while since Jennifer Garner had a lead role. It’s been even longer since she had a lead role in an action movie. Taken director Pierre Morel’s Peppermint puts her back into the spotlight as a scorned mother out for blood. In theory, this sounds like a great idea. Garner has proven herself to do a very nice job in this kind of a role, and everyone behind the scenes appears to be competent. So, what’s wrong with Peppermint?
Garner plays Riley North, a woman whose life has been destroyed. Her husband and young daughter were slaughtered in front of her, and she almost didn’t make it out alive herself. After law enforcement proves ineffective, she decides to take matters into her own hands. But righting every wrong against her isn’t enough. She becomes a vigilante-type figure on her own and doesn’t plan to stop.
There are several very interesting ideas hinted at in Peppermint that aren’t fully explored, if at all. What will Riley’s life become once she’s had her chance at vengeance? Will she ever? Or will she continue to fight for ‘justice’ while losing sight of what justice really is? And also, a section of plot that involves Riley going to Europe for “training” is completely glossed over in a montage. This would have been a more interesting chunk of story for the filmmakers to focus on, instead of what they choose to examine instead. Much of the movie is action-thriller clichés that you’ve seen a hundred times before.
Morrel directs like this like a music video, or worse, like an episode of CSI. The editing is brisk and brash in a way that does not serve this story well. Chad St. John’s script is also riddled with clichés, but you don’t necessarily expect a movie like this to do anything fresh. It does what it says on the box, but you just wish it did it in a better way.
Garner is giving a great performance in a pretty bad movie. She makes Riley someone worth watching, and you just wish this was made by people that cared. You root for Riley even as the film goes off the rails and loses its mind. She’s not just doing her best with what’s on the page. She is single-handedly elevating this mess into something that you end up caring about more than you would if a different actress were headlining.
Overall, I’d say you probably know what you’re getting yourself into when you buy a ticket for Peppermint. It’s a relatively bland action-thriller with exceptionally poor editing, thin writing and a very strong performance by Jennifer Garner. It isn’t even actively saying anything interesting about the fact that this is a female-led action movie. This is Jennifer Garner’s Death Wish. And if you’re on board for that idea, you’ll probably feel the same way I did. I don’t think it was a total waste of time, but I hope Garner gets a chance to do this again with someone that knows what they’re doing.