For Peppermint to work, one has to believe that Jennifer Garner’s Riley North is an invested enough mother and wife to go off the grid for five years and return a lean, mean fighting machine capable of taking down her family’s murderers.
Director Pierre Morel (Taken) and writer Chad St. John (London Has Fallen), however, are so impatient to get to the bloodlust — it’s actually present from the film’s opening scene — that no such character traits are given the chance to develop to that degree.
The short amount of time allotted to the Norths’ loving dynamic and Riley’s grief at the guilty parties escaping punishment offers little insight, and the scattered clues that eventually crop up to suggest how Riley transformed herself into a vengeful version of Garner’s iconic Sydney Bristow are laughable and forced.
As she guns for drug kingpin Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba, The 33) with LAPD detectives Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr., 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Beltran (John Ortiz, Silver Linings Playbook) and FBI Agent Inman (Annie Ilonzeh, All Eyez on Me) hoping to bring her in, Riley doles out cruel, violent justice through unimaginatively staged shootouts and fights with little to no viewer reward amidst the carnage.
Somehow less interesting than Eli Roth’s recent Death Wish remake, Peppermint rips off the 1974 Death Wish in enough ways that it’s a shame screenwriter Wendell Mayes and source novelist Brian Garfield don’t receive writers credits. Instead, the sole person listed is St. John, who tosses in a twist that comes as a legitimate surprise because it doesn’t make any damn sense and whose previous work’s jingoist, borderline racist stench permeates this story to a significant degree.
And while there’s some joy in seeing Garner back in Alias mode, with Riley and the supporting players — a Cliff “Method Man” Smith cameo to one side — bereft of personality and mere servants to the filmmakers’ generous body count, her action heroine revival is only so charming.
Grade: D-plus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: STX Entertainment)