Hero, criminal, vigilante, or all the above? Jennifer Garner (Daredevil, Juno) plays Riley North, a widow-turned-serial-killer out for the blood of the drug lord Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) who gunned down her husband and daughter at a theme park. She’s vicious, relentless, and doesn’t stop killing until Garcia and his men are six feet under.
Five years after Riley’s tragic loss, she hunts down Garcia’s hitmen and hangs them on the Ferris wheel of the very same theme park. Even the DAs and judge — whom Garcia bribed to rob Riley of even the slightest justice — were murdered in their own homes. Meanwhile, LAPD officer Moises (John Ortiz, The Cloverfield Paradox, Fast And Furious) and Stan are trying to keep up with her.
Riley proceeds to take down Garcia’s empire minion by minion, lab by lab until she gains vital intel about Garcia’s safe house location. If it’s one thing Peppermint does exceptionally well, it’s how the movie doesn’t waste screen time on subplots — viewers just want to see Garner throwing punches at bad guys reminiscent of her Daredevil days.
Peppermint is pretty much Taken but with a female protagonist — both films are helmed by Pierre Morel (only the first instalment). Riley’s family members are dead, which makes her rage and thirst for vengeance all the more believable, and is why this film is enjoyable despite the stunning resemblance.
Morel and his crew know how to tell Riley’s backstory with just enough to keep you invested in the character before jumping straight into one action sequence after another. What’s most compelling is that 46-year-old Garner is her own stuntwoman in most of the physically demanding scenes.
As with any anti-hero movies or series, though, their invulnerability in the face of the most improbable chances of survival is laughable and unrealistic. Peppermint tries to use editing and cinematography to make it as believable as possible, but surviving a warehouse explosion by escaping through a manhole at the last second is just an excuse for pyrotechnics.
All that said, the slow build-up to the finale against the big bad drug lord makes it feel satisfying because of how it’s structured like a game — the difficulty slowly increases until the final showdown. Overall, Peppermint is a crowd pleaser. You can’t go wrong with an action movie centred on a vengeful parent and loads of guns.
Summary: Peppermint is Garner’s action flick comeback in over a decade as a vengeful widow who packs a hell of a punch amid some impressive set pieces.
RATING: 3 out of 5 stars
– Vance Wong